Feeling Emotionally Invalidated By Your Partner?

Feeling Emotionally Invalidated By Your Partner?

Emotional Invalidation

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Feeling Invalidated

Hi there. Are you reading this “advice from a marriage counselor” article because your partner just forwarded it to you, as a way of attempting to communicate that you invalidate feelings or they feel emotional invalidation and that they would like this to change? First of all, sorry, but second of all… never fear. I'm the couples therapist in your corner. This one is going to boomerang nicely and wind up working out in your favor. Promise.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret that your partner — possibly not having read this article themselves before impulsively texting it to you on the headline alone — might not know yet: we all invalidate our partners accidentally. I'll bet you probably feel invalidated by them from time to time too. Am I right? Yes? Welcome to relationships.

Emotional Invalidation

How do I know that you're feeling emotionally invalidated sometimes too? First of all, I've been a marriage counselor and relationship coach for a long time. It is extremely rare to find a couple where one person has *actually* been exclusively responsible for all the hurt feelings and conflict. (Except in the tiny percentage of couples counseling cases that I could count on one hand where the hurt-inducing partner has actually been a diagnosable sociopath and/or narcissist. But I will save that tale for another day.)

Secondly, I've also been married for a long time to someone I adore and would never want to hurt on purpose. And I'm a marriage counselor! I should know better! And To. This. Day. I still do things that accidentally invalidate my husband and make him feel bad. More than once I have had to apologize for making him feel like I don't care, despite the fact that I love him very much. 

But I'm working on it and it's better than it used to be. You can do the same. On today's episode, I'm talking all about emotional invalidation and what to do when you're feeling invalidated to make it stop. Listen below or scroll down for show notes and a full transcript of today's episode.

Emotional Invalidation

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Emotional Invalidation: Episode Highlights

Step One: Let's Define “Invalidate”

First of all, let's talk a little about what “invalidation” means. When you invalidate someone, you basically make them feel like you (a) don't understand them or their feelings or (b) if you do understand, you don't care. The impact of this original invalidation will then generally make your partner swing one of two ways, towards either hostility or withdrawal and emotional shut down. Neither of those are good.

In order to not invalidate feelings anymore you need to be self-aware of when it's happening, and what you're doing to cause it. This is the hard part, because almost nobody is intentionally trying to make their partner feel diminished or unimportant when it happens. If you call an invalidating person on it in the moment, they usually get really defensive and start sputtering about how “that's not what I meant” and protesting that their intentions were good. 

Again, except in the case of narcissists (see link above) this is true. Emotional invalidation is generally unintentional. So, no need to beat yourself up if you've been unintentionally hurting someone you love. But you do need to take responsibility for how our actions impact others. We all do.

So let's get familiar with what invalidation actually looks like so that you can become more self aware. Emotional invalidation comes in many flavors, and can happen in both subtle and dramatic ways. 

Let's review.

“It wasn't that bad. You're Overreacting.”

Types of Emotional Invalidation

Now, take a deep breath and non-defensively read through the following descriptions of “emotional invalidators” and see if you can spot yourself. 

See if you can spot the invalidating behaviors your partner uses. (They are in there, I'm sure). 

But again, the hard part is recognizing your own. Bonus points if you can think of other ways you might be invalidating sometimes that I haven't put down here. The possibilities are limitless!

But here are some of the “usual suspects.”

Inattentive Invalidators: These types of invalidators don't pay attention when their partner is talking about something important. (C'est moi! I totally do this.)

Example of Inattentive Invalidation in Action:

Them: “I had a really hard day at work today. I think I might be getting sick.”

You (And by “you” I mean “me”): “I was just thinking that it would be fun to go to Canada this summer. Or Newfoundland. Newfoundland! What do you think?” [Picks up phone to start checking flight prices.]


Belligerent Invalidators: Their M.O. is to rebuttal rather than listen, and put their energy into making their own case instead of seeing things from their partner's perspective.

Example of Belligerent Invalidation in Action:

Them: “I feel like you were rude to my friend.”

You: “Your friend is an annoying idiot who drinks too much and if you want to avoid these problems you should stop inviting him over.”


Controlling invalidators:  These types of invalidators are extremely confident that their way of doing things is right and just, and will either intervene or undo things that their partner does in efforts to correct, (i.e. “help”) them. This happens in many situations including parenting, housekeeping, social situations, and more. 

Example of Controlling Invalidation in Action:

Them: “No, Timmy, you can't go out to play because you have to take a shower and clean your room.”

You: “You need exercise, Timmy. Be back before dinner.”


Judgmental Invalidators: These types of invalidators minimize the importance of things that they do not personally feel are interesting or important to them, in a way that creates disconnection in their relationships.

Example of Judgmental Invalidation in Action:

Them: “What should we do this weekend? So many fun things! Do you want to go to the farmer's market / prepper expo / rv show / rodeo?”

You: “Pfft. NO. That is so boring, why would anyone want to do that? Personally, I'm busy anyway. I have to spend the weekend finishing my Fortnite challenges. Wanna watch? No? Okay see you later.”


Emotional Invalidators: Then of course there is the stereotypical, garden-variety Emotional Invalidator, who feels entitled to “disagree” with other people's feelings, or argue that other's feelings are not reasonable, or to talk them out of their feelings.

Example of Emotional Invalidation in Action:

Them: “Crying”

You: “You shouldn't be sad. At least we have one healthy child already….”

You some more: “….That's not what I meant. We can try again next month. The doctor said that this could happen for the first time….”

If this conversation sounds even remotely familiar… I'm glad we're here right now!


Fixit Invalidators: Then, there is the “Fixit” Invalidator, who would prefer to leap over messy feelings entirely and go straight to helpful solutions — having zero idea they are making things infinitely worse by doing so.

Example of Fixit invalidation in Action:

Them: “I am heartbroken about my argument with my sister. I feel really bad about what happened.”

You: “She's just a drama queen. Forget about it. You should make plans with some of your other friends. I'll see if Jenny and Phil want to come over on Friday.”

Does this sound like something you might say?


Owner of the Truth Invalidators: Lastly, there are the reflexive “that's not what happened” invalidators who pride themselves on being rational and who sincerely believe that their subjective experience is the yardstick of all others. If it didn't happen to them, it is not a thing. A kissing-cousin of codependency, this type of invalidator will often follow up their original invalidation by explaining to you how you, actually, are the one with the problem.

Example of a Truth Owner in Action:

Them: “I am feeling really invalidated by you right now.”

You: “I am not invalidating you. You were just telling me that your day was hard and you're feeling overwhelmed, and I know for a fact that you shouldn't be feeling that way because it wasn't that bad. You just need to get more organized. You're overreacting.”


Good times, right? Yes, there are so, so many ways to invalidate someone. This is just a small sample of the many ways, shapes, and forms emotional invalidation shows up in relationships. There are many more. Not sure what kind of invalidator you might be? Ask your partner. I'm sure they'd be happy to tell you.

Next, now that we've “cultivated self awareness,” as we say in the shrink-biz, we're going to talk about how to stop doing that, and start helping your partner feel validated instead.

Step Two: Understand The Importance of Validation

While the first step in learning how to stop accidentally invalidating your partner is to figure out what kinds of emotional invalidation you are prone to, the second step is to learn what it means to be validating and why it's so important.

What is “Validation” Anyway?

So, what is “validation?” To validate someone means that you help them feel understood, accepted, and cared for by you. It requires empathy. Empathy happens when you really get how others see things, and that you support them in their perspective — even if you do not share their perspective. 

Because empathy is such a foundational skill in so many areas of Love, Happiness and Success, the development of empathy is often a big part of what is happening in emotional intelligence coaching, personal growth work, as well as couples counseling. Empathy requires intention, but it's incredibly powerful when you start really getting it.

This is super important in relationships because validation is a cornerstone of emotional safety. And emotional safety — feeling like you are accepted and valued for who you are, like your thoughts, feelings, and preferences are important to your partner, and that your relationship is loving and supportive — is the foundation of a happy, healthy relationship.

Just consider how wonderful it feels to hear these words, “I can understand why you would feel that way.” No matter what's going on, when you hear that it feels like you're accepted by the person you're with and that it's okay for you to feel the way you feel. That right there is the strong foundation from which you can then find your own way forward. (And in your own time).

Also, if we were to dissect pretty much any basic argument that a couple can have, 98% of the time, arguments start with one person feeling invalidated by the other. When anyone feels invalidated the natural response is to then escalate their efforts to be understood. Which can sound like yelling. Then if the invalidator doubles down on defending their invalidating behaviors in response, it can get pretty ugly pretty quick. 

As I'm sure you know. Incidentally, if you have been feeling like your partner is emotionally reactive and unnecessarily hostile towards you, it can actually be an important clue that you've been making them feel invalidated without realizing it. (Read, “Twelve Effective Ways to Destroy Your Relationship” for more on this and other common relationship mistakes.)

So if you work towards being more validating, you will not just stop pretty much any argument in its tracks but your partner will feel emotionally safe and accepted by you, and you will have a much stronger, happier relationship. Win, win, win.

Step Three: Validate Feelings Intentionally, Through Practice

The real problem with changing your (our) tendency to be accidentally invalidating is that it can be really hard to wrap your (our) brains around the fact that we really are hurting the people we love without meaning to. 

In none of the examples of “types of invalidators” was I describing anyone who was trying to be hurtful. They were just failing to understand their partner's perspective or needs or feelings, and prioritizing their own instead. 

Human beings are generally self-focused, unless they put purposeful effort into being other-focused. Sad but true.

The good news is that it's not hard to be more other-focused if you decide that it's important enough to make it a priority. It just takes intention and practice, and a genuine desire to want your partner to feel more cared for by you.

Here's what my perspective of me being invalidating (and then trying to practice validation) looks like at my house:

My husband is telling me something but I'm not really connecting with what he is saying. He's talking about his day at work, and how he's not feeling great. And now he's going on and on about this guy he works with who's super annoying, and incompetent, and how he's thinking about taking the day off tomorrow to go take photos and how he might drive out towards the mountains, and now he's talking about this new video game that he started playing with our son, and how there are these avatars that build sawmills and jump over sharks and there are dances (or something) and …

….I've now officially zoned out, and am now following the spark of ideas that whatever he just said to me has just ignited into being, through the chambers of my own mind.  Day off… Mountains…. Nature documentary…. Camera lenses…. Majestic landscape photos…. I want to go somewhere beautiful… Catherine said good things about Quebec…. He's still talking but I'm now having an entirely internal experience. I know he's still there, but it's the muffled, “Wa-wa-wa” like the adult in the old Charlie Brown cartoons. I am now entirely absorbed by my own thoughts rather than what he is saying, but not on purpose.

Sometimes he can tell when I'm not there anymore, but most of the time neither of us realize what is happening until I say something apparently out of the blue, like “I was just thinking that it would be fun to go to Canada this summer. Or Newfoundland. What do you think?” [Picks up phone to start researching flight prices]. Then I look up from my phone to see his shoulders slump a little and this look cross his face like, “Do you even care about what I'm saying?” Only then do I realize that what he was talking about felt important to him, and I made him feel bad. He's annoyed. He should be.

Because in that moment, my lack of attention left him feeling invalidated in our conversation. He was left feeling like he wasn't important or interesting enough for me to pay attention to, or worse, like I just hijacked the conversation to talk about whatever I was thinking of instead of what he was bringing up. Which I totally did.

But like you, I didn't mean to hurt his feelings. It just happened because I wasn't making him a priority at that moment, but indulging my own self-absorbed thoughts instead of really deliberately tracking what he was saying to me. (If you, too, have a tendency towards adult ADHD, I'm sure you can relate.)

In contrast, when I remind myself of my intention to be a good friend to him, to help him feel cared for and validated by me, it's a totally different experience. I will myself to focus on what he is saying. I look in his eyes. When I feel my mind starting to slide towards something other than what he is talking about, I bring it back to him by very deliberately reflecting something I heard him say. I think about how he might be feeling and ask about that. Or I ask open-ended questions to help him say more about what is going on for him, but also as a strategy to keep myself engaged. In short, I am using communication skills and empathy to help him feel validated.

I try really hard to stay present, and stay on topic. Sometimes I am more successful than others, but I know he sees me trying. We know each other well enough now and we can even laugh about it, as we do when I glaze and he just stops talking and makes a face at me. Humor helps. So does managing your expectations that your partner can or should be perfectly perfect at validating your feelings all of the time.

But truthfully, if you want to stop making someone else feel invalidated it requires a certain level of courage and humility. It's hard to think about, “What's it like to live with me” and really allow yourself to understand, deeply, what you do and how it makes your partner feel. I think that embracing personal responsibility without being defensive is one of the hardest things to do in a marriage, and helping other people move into this receptive, honestly reflective space is often the hardest thing for me to do as a marriage counselor. That's why I wanted to model this for you.

How to Validate Someone's Feelings

Every flavor of invalidation has an antidote that's a little different. Just as there are infinite ways to invalidate feelings, there are many strategies for how to validate someone's feelings too. I could go into great detail about what the antidote for each involves, but then this would be an actual self-help book rather than a blog post. But, briefly, here are some pointers:

I hope that this discussion of how you may be accidentally invalidating your partner was helpful to you, and gives you clarity about how to shift the emotional climate of your relationship just by making your partner's feelings and perspective as important to you as your own. Not easy to do. It requires emotional strength, the ability to be honest with yourself, and the willingness to grow in service of your relationship. But it is so worth it.

Now, please send this post and episode back to your partner so they can think about what THEY need to be working on in order to help you feel more heard, valued, and understood by them. 

All the best,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

The music in this episode is “Dive” by Beach House from their album “7”. You can support them and their work by visiting their website or on Bandcamp. Each portion of the music used in this episode fits under Section 107 of the Copyright Act. Please refer to copyright.gov for more information.

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[Intro music: “Dive” by Beach House, from their album “7”]

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: Hey friends. Today, on the show, we're going to be talking about something that we need to talk about. It is a silent killer of many relationships. You may be experiencing this on your own. It's feeling invalidated. Either you might be listening to this because you are feeling routinely invalidated by your partner, which is hard, or perhaps you are listening to this because your partner is telling you that you are making them feel invalidated. 

This is a really significant issue and one that we need to address together. So that's going to be the focus of our time together today, is talking about what invalidation is, why it happens, and most importantly, what you can do to either feel heard and understood by your partner in your relationship or potentially do a better job of helping your partner feel validated and respected by you. 

If this is your first time listening to the podcast, I'm so glad you found us. I am Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby. I am your host. I am also the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling & Coaching. I am a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. I'm a licensed psychologist. I am a board-certified coach. But what I love doing more than anything else is helping people improve their relationships. I am very married. I've been married for a long time. I've also just worked as a counselor and a coach for so many years. 

Just one of, I think, my main takeaways from all of this life experience is that truly, our wellness, our happiness, our health comes from the quality of our relationships largely. That's why so often on this podcast, I want to talk about things that can help you improve your relationships. Because when our relationships feel strong and successful, everything just feels so much easier in our lives. We feel better emotionally. We have more fun. We have a nicer time. We have a strong foundation from which to launch off and do amazing things. So I am a relationship person. 

That's what we're talking about today is in the love quadrant: what you can do to increase the emotional safety in your relationship. I think that that's one of the things that happens when invalidation is present in a relationship is that it really erodes the emotional safety between you and your partner. And ugly things can start happening in a relationship when people aren't feeling safe, and respected, and heard, and understood. That's what happens when invalidation is a frequent issue in a relationship. 

What Is Validation?

To just dive into our topic today, first of all, allow me to just take a couple of minutes to orient you to validation, what it means, why it's important, to set the stage. When I am talking about either validation or invalidation, to validate someone, it means that you're helping them feel understood by you, that you get whatever they're sharing, you are accepting what they are telling you about how they feel. In that space, also, helping them feel cared for by you, that they're not just saying something and dropping a stone into a well. 

There's this response. You get them. You understand how they see things. You can see the situation through their eyes. Also, there's the sense that their perspective is supported by you. I also want to say that in a truly healthy, vibrant relationship, there is always some diversity of thought. We're not partnered with clones of ourselves, right? People can have different perspectives, different opinions. But there's this sense of fundamental respect for each other's perspectives, even if it is different from yours. It's like this: “Yeah, you know when I look at it that way, I can see why that makes sense.” 

Just think about it. When somebody says that to you, “I can understand why you would feel that way.” I've had friends in my life just naturally say things like that to me in conversation, and it's the relational equivalent of somebody just walking up to you and just folding a warm, soft blanket around your shoulders. “Yes, that makes sense. You make sense. Your feelings make sense. I can see why you feel that way. I would feel that way too if I were in that situation.” It's just like this, “Ah, thank you so much for saying that.” It's just such a nice experience to have.

I think that we all crave that from our partners from time to time. Again, that's a cornerstone of emotional safety. Now, if the phrase emotional safety is a new one for you, I would encourage you to scroll back through my podcast archive. I have done a podcast episode on emotional safety, specifically, where I talked a lot about that concept and how important it is in healthy relationships, and would encourage you to check out that episode if you'd like to explore more about all the different elements of emotional safety. Keep in mind that to be able to validate someone's feelings is an incredibly important part of that. 

When we're creating emotionally safe relationships, and when we are validating people that we love, it is, again, it's like this experience that people are having with us, that we accept them, that we value them, we respect them for who they are. We think that their thoughts, and feelings, and preferences are important. They're important to us, right? In that context, over communicating that regularly, through the way we're communicating and the way that we're interacting with our loved ones, it just creates this very loving and supportive relationship. That's a foundational component. 

How Does Emotional Invalidation Happen?

I have to tell you, as a marriage counselor, 95% of the time, when a new couple drops into the practice, and they’re, “We'd like to work on our relationship.” “Okay, great. What's going on?” 95% of the time, it is some variation of communication. “We're not communicating as well as we'd like to. Communication feels hard.” When you dig into that, like, “Okay, what about communication is feeling hard right now,” invariably, one, often both partners are not feeling validated. It's not that the words coming out of each other's mouths are not terribly problematic in and of themselves. 

It's that they're not getting a validating response from their partner. The problem with communication is that they are not feeling like their partner hears them or understands them. They're feeling like their partner is misinterpreting their intentions. They say something well-intentioned, well-meaning, their partner takes it the wrong way. Here's something that they are trying to say that is interpreted very negatively, that is responded to in an angry way. Or they're feeling like their partner just doesn't have empathy for their perspective, or slaps whatever they're trying to share out of their hands, or making them feel uncared for, or that their feelings or perspectives aren't important in that moment. 

That is very much about a validation issue. Because validation, really, at its core, is around having empathy for the other person. Being able to accurately understand their feelings, understand their intentions, and then reflecting back to that person: “Yeah, I can understand that. I'm not sure that I see it exactly the same way. But when I look through it, at the situation through your lens, I can understand that. Also, I understand that this is important to you. And I understand that you are actually feeling this way.” 

I think the other big meta message within that is “I love you, and this, whatever this is, is important to you. You care a lot about this. This is making you feel a certain way. Because you are important to me, I care about it too because I care about you.” Again, it's just this whole experience of being cherished when we're talking about validation and how impactful it is. So many arguments, again, start this way. If we were to dissect pretty much any basic argument that a couple can have, almost all of the time, these arguments begin with one person feeling invalidated by the other. 

When that happens, when anyone feels invalidated, the natural response to this is to escalate your efforts to be understood, which often sounds like yelling, am I right? If you say, “Yeah, I feel this way,” and the response you get from your partner's like, “That's wrong.” Right? “That didn't happen, or no, it's not that big of a deal.” That, I think, makes all of us say, “No, you don't understand. No, this is true. This is happening.” All of a sudden, we're really fighting to be understood, aren't we? We are not fighting to win. We are not fighting to control. We are fighting to be heard and to feel like we're cared about, to feel like we're important. 

So the other thing that happens, so one person feels invalidated, and then they escalate, “No, I really need you to understand this.” Then, what also happens is that the invalidator, the person who originally came out with a less than ideal response, will double down on defending their position and will defend their invalidating behaviors. “No, that's not what I said. That's not what I meant. Why are you making such a big deal out of this? This always happens when we talk about your mom or your job,” or whatever it is, right? 

How Fighting to be Heard is Invalidation

When this starts to happen, one person is like, “No, I really need you to understand how I'm feeling right now.” The other person is like, “That's dumb.” It can get extremely ugly, so fast. I think everybody within the sound of my voice right now has had this experience at one point or another in their relationship. I know that I certainly have. Truth be told, if we're all going to move towards healthy humility here, I think that our partners have probably felt this way with us from time to time. 

I think that when we are fighting to be heard, we are experiencing invalidation. We're not getting the response that we want. We are really looking for comfort, or connection, or reassurance, and when that isn't what we're getting, right? It feels bad. I think it is very, very easy to miss the moments that we are accidentally and unintentionally making other people feel that way with us. Because I have to tell you, it is so easy to do. When I sit with a couple in marriage counseling, or couples therapy, or whatever it is, and unpack all of this at the core, I do not find narcissists. I do not find sociopaths. I do not find people who are irredeemable and incapable of having healthy relationships. 

What I find are people who are simply unaware of the impact that they are having on others just because they're in a different place, or they're not fully understanding how important that particular moment is. It's just all these missed opportunities to connect. I have been so guilty of that in my own life. I think that chances are, if we are going to be humble and with healthy humility here together, you could probably reflect on some moments in your own life when you have unintentionally done the same. 

The reason why I want to talk about this part for a second is because one of the easiest ways to just melt away all that defensiveness, and restore emotional safety, and increase love and validation all around, is when we can be humble and reflect on our own process because it helps us be more emotionally safe. It helps us be more validating and responsive to our partners, and I think it also helps us handle the moments when we are feeling invalidated by someone else. 

It helps us handle those moments so much more effectively because we can shift away from that automatic response of, “You just totally invalidated me. I'm going to be mad at you.” “No, that's not what I said. I'm going to start fighting to be heard.” We can shift out of that and into a much more helpful and respectful way of getting our emotional needs met in that moment when we are able to stay soft, and empathetic, and emotionally generous with our partners, and make an effective repair attempt, which is, “You know, let me try that again. I feel like maybe you didn't fully understand what I was trying to communicate to you in this moment and how important it is for me right now just to feel heard by you, and respected by you, and understood by you. So I'm going to have a redo.”

Particularly, if you and your partner have had the opportunity to work on some of this stuff together in couples counseling, or relationship coaching, like it's not the first time they've had this conversation with you, it immediately orients them back to, “Oh, this is one of those moments when you're not looking for me to do anything. You are not attacking me. You are not presenting me with a problem that I need to solve. I don't have to be defensive right now. This is one of these moments when you're just trying to connect with me emotionally. I can do that. So thank you for giving me another go at this so that I can be a better partner for you right now. Because I love you, and you're important to me, and that is what I want to do. Okay? Okay, so let's do this again.”

Then, you can literally have a redo with your partner, where there is a different outcome. That outcome is one where you feel loved, and cared for, and respected, and supportive, and have had the opportunity to share your feelings about something that's on your mind, and not have it turned into an argument. It turns into a conversation where you just get to share and be heard. Maybe that is 100% the goal. That's fantastic. No other action is required. We do not have to change anything. We do not have to fix anything. You got to say it. It was received, and we're done. That's fantastic. 

Other times, I think another component of validation can be attached to, “I'm feeling this way, and I would like to find a solution to this problem because I'm feeling bothered by the situation. I'd like to have a productive conversation with you where we could maybe just talk about different ways of handling this because I don't like feeling the way that I'm feeling right now. So I'm just hoping that we can sort through this.” When there is validation happening on both sides, it isn't just you saying, “I have a problem, and we need to fix that because I'm not okay, right now.” 

It turns into, “Let me tell you about how I'm experiencing this situation and help me feel like you understand what I'm saying. Now tell me how you are feeling in this situation and what you see is the ideal outcome or different options here.” Because when you are being intentionally validating, and respectful, and supportive, you start asking your partner questions like that. “I'm not the only one in this relationship. You might have a totally different perspective here. Tell me more about how you see this, or how you've been feeling in these situations. How are you experiencing me when this stuff happens?”

Because in that space of emotional safety, when you are able to validate your partner and help them feel really understood and cared for by you, they will tell you how they're feeling because they trust you. You're not going to freak out when they tell you how they're actually feeling. But if there isn't that trust in your relationship, they won't tell you. The trust has been broken to the point that people do not feel safe enough to share how they are really feeling with each other. 

Overcoming Emotional Invalidation

We think of trust many times as something that is broken through betrayal. There's an affair or there's some catastrophic lying going on in a relationship, and that can certainly damage trust. But there are many more subtle kinds of betrayals of trust that I think people don't fully recognize or understand the significance of because they're subtle, and a betrayal of trust that happens all the time. 

Unintentionally, nobody's doing this on purpose. But when someone tells you how they really feel, or what they need, or what their hopes are, or what is upsetting them even, and when that is invalidated, or dismissed, or rejected, or reacted to with hostility or contempt, it is a betrayal of trust. The message that people receive is, “I don't care about how you feel. I disrespect your experience right now. I reject this.” What happens is, they're like, “Okay, cool, noted. I am never doing that again. The next time you ask me how I'm feeling, I don't think I want to enter into that ring of emotional intimacy with you because I don't trust you enough to tell you how I really feel right now.” 

This is hard. This is, I think, a place where I find with many couples, I often need to stay for a fairly significant period of time in couples counseling or in relationship coaching, because people really do not understand the impact that they are having on each other. Again, and I say this as someone who has done exactly the same thing, we all get so focused on our own perspective, our own needs, and whether or not they are being met in a relationship, and whether or not we are feeling validated, or getting the response that we want. 

We get very hyper-focused on what is happening in that regard and really miss the systemic nature of relationships, which is, “When I'm feeling that way, what do I do? How do I approach my partner? How do I engage with them?” Because especially people who perceive themselves as really fighting for their relationships, fighting to have greater emotional intimacy or greater connection, have no idea how scary or emotionally unsafe or even threatening they themselves are being in these moments when they feel like they're seeking emotional intimacy. 

I'm going to do a whole other podcast on that topic, that concept, specifically, around emotional intimacy and what to do when we're feeling lonely and disconnected in a relationship. So more on that topic to come soon. Just that one takeaway from today would be to ask yourself: Are you validating your partner? Are they feeling invalidated by you in those moments? Or has trust been broken in the past that accidentally trained them to hide from you, and to not communicate with you, and to not tell you how they're really, really feeling even though you want them to, but something has happened, where they feel like they can't? 

That's a really, really common thing that happens in relationships. It is frequently due to that primary issue of people feeling invalidated or rejected by each other in these potentially tender moments of connection. 

What Does Emotional Invalidation Look Like in Action?

With that in mind, I would really like to turn this conversation to talking a little bit about understanding what invalidation looks like in action so that we ourselves can be more conscious of the times that we're doing it and then, also have a little bit more empathy or understanding for the times when our partners may be doing that to us without fully realizing it. Because empathy is so key. 

To begin, when invalidation is happening, what we are communicating, what is happening is that people feel like we don't understand them. We are misinterpreting them. We are taking what they are saying, and then running it through our own filter of meaning, and coming up with something different than what they were trying to communicate to us that they don't feel understood. Or that if we do understand what they're saying conceptually, we don't care about their feelings. Not that we don't care, but that we are rejecting it, and it can be very, very subtle, you guys.

It could be like, “I'm sure they didn't mean that when they said X, Y, Z. You're probably just overreacting.” Those kinds of things, which might be true. I don't know. But the truth of what is happening or not happening is so insignificant that the truth of what's happening is that your partner is actually trying to tell you how they are feeling, emotionally, in this present moment. You have just been offered the gift of trust and emotional intimacy. What are you going to do with that? 

Are you going to make them feel like you don't understand, or they're stupid, or their feelings are ridiculous or not important, or they're being overreactive, or they're just not thinking about this the right way? Because that doesn't feel good. We all know how that feels, right? It is not good. Or are they going to be leaving whatever interaction they just had with you feeling like, “I love them so much because they love me.” Just feeling loved. In order to improve this experience, we need to be self-aware of when it's happening and what we are potentially doing to cause it.

Types of Invalidating Behaviors

There are different flavors of invalidation. We all have our unique styles, I think. When I am being invalidating to my husband, I'm usually doing it in one of a couple of ways. So let me just run through these types of invalidating behaviors. See if you can see yourself in any of these and maybe if some of these are true for your partner. 

Inattentive Invalidators

One, and I think this is probably the most common, and this is the one that I am so guilty of, is an inattentive invalidator. These types of invalidators, they're just not paying attention when their partner is talking about something important. Oh my gosh, I can so easily do this, because I don't know what you're like. Me, I'm just kind of usually zooming along at 900 miles an hour. I am a habitual multitasker. I know it's not good to do that. But I am doing the dishes while I'm on the phone with somebody, and I'm thinking about five things that are happening.

Sometimes in these moments, this is when my husband wants to tell me about something. What happens is, they will say, “Oh, I had such a day. I'm not feeling good. I think I might be getting sick.” Then, you might say — by you I mean me — you’d be like, “You know what, I was just thinking that we should go on a trip to Canada.” Or, “Oh did I tell you that Julie called. She was thinking that we might go camping this… Would you want to do that?” So, I am now picking up my phone and researching campsites or travel reservations. 

My husband just said something totally unrelated to that. He was trying to tell me something about how he felt. It triggered an idea in my mind, or I wasn't really paying attention to the impact of what he was trying to say. Because there can be emotional connotations to certain things that people say. They're very easy to miss unless we're really paying attention. So he, in that moment, felt like I was totally disconnected from what he was trying to communicate, which I was. It's just because I wasn't fully present. 

I was kind of thinking about something, and he said something, and I had a random thought in my head and just sort of impulsively acted on it. I'm nowhere near where he is in terms of what he's trying to communicate or what he is needing for me in that moment. It’s not intentional. It’s not like I'm trying to harm him in those moments. I'm not mad at him. It's just really a simple lack of attention. I, in order to be a better partner, need to slow down sometimes. Also, one of the things that I have found over the years, and I see this routinely with the couples that I work with too, is to be able to set some boundaries or guidelines around these conversations. 

When I can tell that he is trying to communicate about something that might be more important, and I am not in a headspace where I can do that. I have a crisis situation at work that I'm thinking about or needing to deal with and that maybe he doesn't know about that, right? So he's trying to talk to me all of a sudden, and I have learned to say, “I want to hear all about this. Can you give me 15 minutes? I need to take care of this. I need to X, Y, Z or whatever.” Then, 15 minutes later, I am like, “Tell me more,” blink, blink, and I’m looking in his eyes asking appropriate questions. I'm all there. 

But I need to communicate to him when I can't be present. Because if he doesn't know that, he's going to try to communicate with me and not have a good experience. I think we've learned a lot about each other over the years. He's like, “I would like to talk to you about something important. Is now a good time? Or when can we talk about this?” That conversation right there has been a game-changer, I think, in our relationship. But for so many couples that I work with, particularly, in relationship coaching, people come in, and they have been feeling so badly with each other, and it's just felt so hard. 

When we unpack it and when we dial down into it, sometimes, you guys, the answer is as easy as that. “Tell me what is going on in the moments that you're trying to communicate, and it's not going well, or it's feeling frustrating. Literally, where are you?” It could be, sometimes, people are telling me, “It was during dinner, and our three-year-old was having a meltdown, and X, Y, Z.” They start talking about all of these different circumstances. When we're able to identify the practices that people are using, the boundaries that they're setting around their communication, and how they are communicating their needs in those moments to each other, it's so much easier. 

It was actually not this big, horrible, catastrophic thing. We don't have to spend nine months in therapy talking about, “Yes, your mother was an alcoholic, and all of these big things about why you can't communicate.” No, it's actually learning how to say, “Is this a good time to talk?” to your partner. Not always. Sometimes, there are old things, and it goes deeper. But, you'd be amazed at the impact of making these small procedural changes can make on the way that everything unfolds. So I just wanted to share that. If inattentive invalidation is a thing at your house, just try it. Let me know what happens. 

Belligerent Invalidators

Now, there are other kinds of invalidating behaviors that we should talk about. Another common one is a belligerent invalidator. The MO of a belligerent invalidator is to rebut rather than listen and put their energy into making their own case, instead of seeing things from their partner’s perspective. 

Example, somebody, either you or your partner, is talking about, “I didn't feel good about that situation. That person was being rude, or that felt uncomfortable.” A belligerent invalidator will basically tell you why you're wrong for feeling that way. Or say, “Yeah, well, this is what was actually going on.” 

What's happening in those moments, and again, it's not on purpose. It's not intentional. But it's like they are replacing your perspective or whatever you just shared with their own perspective. They are not trying to be hostile or belligerent. But it really feels that way. Because it was like you just put something out there, and then, they just steamrolled over it with their concept of reality. 

This, again, is super common. I think it is very easy to identify people or situations when we have felt that way. Less easy to identify when we ourselves are accidentally doing that. Somebody shares something, and it's very easy to say, “Oh, no, that's not what happened. Let me tell you what really happened.” Sometimes, when you do that to people, they'll fight back and it'll turn into an argument, which in some ways is great. It's healthier in some ways, and it’s like, “ No, I need you to listen to me right now.” 

Other times, you will do that to someone. You'll say, “No, no, no. That's not what happened. Let me tell you what actually happened.” People will just take it, and you will have made them feel really bad, and uncared for, and disrespected. They just kind of go inwards. You just steamrolled right over them and broke their trust in you. You're not emotionally safe. But they're like, “Okay.” We'll exit that. You might not ever know what just happened. You'll feel fine because you were just telling them what you thought. What's the harm? You're just calling it like you see it right? You’ll never know that that was actually a real wound. 

That's another thing about relationships. We've all heard that saying, “Death by a thousand cuts.” These micro-moments? Those are cuts, and if you're with someone who isn't real assertive in telling you how you're making them feel, you can just keep cutting, and cutting, and cutting, and they'll just eventually be done with you, and you will not have known why. That is a terrible thing to consider, and it is a reality of relationships. So, belligerent invalidation. Please keep that one on your radar. 

The next time somebody tells you something, particularly, if it has anything to do with how they felt, or perceived something, or reacted to something, is just to keep in mind, they are telling you how they feel right now. Their truth is how they feel. Your job as a partner, or a friend, is to help them feel understood by you, not corrected by you. Nobody's asking you for that. So, again, I'm being direct. I am being your friend right now. Because the alternative when you're doing that to people and not fully aware of it can be really bad for relationships, and it's very easy to do. 

Controlling Invalidators

Another very common kind of invalidating behavior are the controlling invalidators. These types of invalidators are often extremely confident, which is a good thing in many situations. But they are very confident that their way of doing things is right and just, and will either intervene or undo things that their partner does in efforts to correct it. 

Now, I have also been guilty of this in my relationship. Again, I think it's more due to impulsivity than ill will, right? When someone is invalidating in a controlling way, they often feel like they're helping. They are stepping in. They're going to manage something. They're going to prevent a possible problem that they foresee in the future and that maybe their partner doesn't. But this happens in so many situations, including parenting, housekeeping, social situations around finances. 

One example would be, one partner saying, “No little Timmy, you can't go out to play because you have to take a shower and clean your room.” The other partner is, “Oh, yeah, Jim's mom called and wants you to play. Just be back before dinner.” So it's this really subtle and common kind of invalidation that happens when one person's preferences or things that they are trying to create or do are, again, just undone by someone else. 

This can happen in very small ways, too, around someone's preferences for how you do things. I think, for many couples, teamwork can feel hard. One aspect of every successful relationship is just being able to work together as a team, right? Like the most banal things. Who does laundry? Who folds the laundry? Does laundry get put away in the drawer? Or does it stay in the laundry basket even if it's clean? Who gets the mail? Who opens the mail? How often does this happen? Who pays the bills? 

These little procedural things, even around cleaning, cleaning the house, or making the bed, or cooking a meal that people who have a tendency towards this controlling kind of invalidation, they wind up taking over for a lot of different things because they have stronger opinions about the way that things should be done. The message that is sent to their partner is, “You're not doing it right. Your way of doing things is wrong, and I am taking this away from you.” 

The experience on the other side, again, can be very subtle. People may or may not be talking about this, but it leads to a lot of withdrawal in relationships. It's like this: “Okay, I tried. It wasn't good enough. Fine. You do it.” It is this sense of being, sometimes micromanaged, but just disrespected. “My preferences, my ways of doing things, my feelings in the situation are not important to you.” It's like, “This is your show. This isn't my show.” 

It comes through these small interactions and through these very subtle and seemingly insignificant, controlling kinds of invalidating behaviors that many of us are not aware of. Because, again, our intentions are not bad. We're not trying to make our partners feel micromanaged or disrespected. It's that we maybe have done this before, maybe we have our preferences; we already have a system. “No, the bread goes here,” that kind of thing. But again, what it leads to, particularly, if it's a pattern in the relationship is the other person withdrawing and just feeling like there's not space for them. 

I do not want to genderify this because these patterns can exist for both men and women and in same-sex relationships, certainly. But usually, controlling invalidators, in my experience, tend to be women. Not always, but many, many times. So just check in with yourself. “Am I doing this?” See if you can notice it in yourself. Again, notice, too, that when this is happening, you're not trying to be disrespectful. You're not trying to be damaging. You are not trying to communicate contempt. But that's how it can still be received. 

Again, I'm not saying these things to make you feel bad. When we shine the light on ourselves and understand how easy it is to accidentally make other people feel this way, we can become much more gentle and compassionate when we are experiencing invalidation from others. We can see the other person not as this invalidating enemy who is trying to hurt me emotionally. It's, “Oh, they don't understand what's happening right now.” Because I, sometimes, don't understand the small things that I do make other people feel a certain way. 

When we can move into that space of compassion and collaborative understanding. It's so much easier to talk about that authentically and have grace for the other person to say, “Let's have a redo. This is one of the things that we've been working on. We've been talking to Lisa about this or whatever.” It softens it. It makes it much more likely to have your needs met when you can have empathy for the noble intentions of your partner, noble intentions much of the time. 

Judgmental Invalidators

One other thing, a couple other kinds of invalidating behaviors, there is also such a thing as a judgmental invalidator. These kinds of validators, again, in my experience, they are truly trying to be helpful. But what they do in action is that they are minimizing the importance of things that they don't personally feel are interesting, or important, or significant that their other person sees. They do so in a way that creates disconnection in their relationships. 

An example of judgmental invalidation would be somebody saying, “What should we do this weekend? There are so many fun things. Do you want to go to the farmers market? Do you want to go to the RV show, rodeo, anything? It could literally be brunch with my friends.” The judgmental invalidator would say, “No, that's boring. I want to spend this time playing video games with my friend. Or I am not even remotely interested in brunch or your friends. Why would I want to do that?” 

Again, they probably feel like they're being authentic, right? They're telling you how they really feel. Also, a judgmental invalidator can also communicate this way about emotionally laden things. “That's, again, the wrong way of looking at it.” Or “Why would you think that?” What they're doing is, they're so entrenched in their little perspective of the world, their own little fiefdom of reality, that it is very difficult for them to look over the wall and understand that other people have other interests. 

They have other cognitive filters. They have other expectations of relationshipse. They are interpreting the world differently. They have different motivations. They have different tastes. They're just, again, so stuck in their own one worldview. It's like they're just looking down at their feet. This is the way things are. To have that acknowledgment of the diversity of all humans, they struggle with that. But again, they're not doing it out of maliciousness. They are simply being authentic. 

They’re like, “Why would I do that? I've never gone to a rodeo. I don't really get it. No, I don't want to do that.” Again, what happens is that it sends this message of what you are interested in doing, what you like, what you might want to try, “First of all, I don't understand that, and I will not participate in that with you. That isn't important to me, so I won't do it.” 

Again, it can be very subtle. But I tell you what, I have seen so many relationships break apart on those rocks, I can't even tell you. Because what happens is that the person on the other side feels like if they want to maintain a connection with this individual, they have to enter their world. They have to be into what they are into. They need to hang out with their friends. They need to participate in their interests because their partner is not coming over the line onto their side of things. 

Now, just to state this very plainly, and clearly, it is also true that in vibrant, healthy relationships, partners have different interests. It is 100%, okay, to have hobbies, or sports, or activities that you are into that your partner is not into. You don't have to be doing all the same things together all of the time. I think, in some ways, to have that kind of diversity in a relationship is quite healthy because you have this sort of interdependence. You can have your separate lives and separate friend groups. 

I think that makes for a more interesting relationship, right? You can go do something fun with your friends, and your partner can go through a different thing. Then, you can come back together and have an interesting conversation because you have stories to tell and things to share. It's great, right? So that's how people grow and evolve. All of those things are healthy. 

But I think when there is this, almost absolute refusal to enter into someone's worldview ever, what is experienced is a lot of judgment. Because, again, I think people are not intended to come across this way. But the meta-message is that “Well, that's dumb. Why would you want to do that? Ew, no, that's boring.” For whatever it is. That feels really bad. It feels really bad to be partnered with someone who is judgmental of who you are and what you're into. 

I think that the lesson we can take here is that even if you are not into the things that your partner is into, it is okay to help support their interests by talking to them about it or doing things with them sometimes. You don't have to spend every weekend of your life doing the thing. But, what we want to communicate is that “Your interests are important to you. Therefore, they are important to me.” 

Listen, you guys, I have a 13-year-old who is super into video games right now. Candy Crush stresses me out. That's all I can take, right? Not only am I not interested in playing video games, I do not really care that much. But my 13-year-old is super interested in this. So, I will be a video-game spectator. I will watch him play. He's telling me about all these different missiles, and guns, and squads, and things, and whatever. He is so excited. 

To connect with him, I am not being judgmental and rejecting of the things that are important to him because it would be so easy for me to do that. Because inside my head sometimes I'm like, “Why would you want to, anyway?” But in those moments, my role is to like, “Tell me more. What do you like about this game? Or tell me about what happened when X, Y, Z. Or who's your favorite character? Or what do you like about? Tell me about the plotline.” 

Asking questions being engaged, because the alternative is to subtly communicate judgment, and rejection, and invalidation in a way that can create a lot of disconnection in a relationship and sends a message, “You're not important to me. What you're into is dumb. I think you're dumb. I don't care about this.” It feels like “I don't care about you.” We don't want to do that for the people that we love. Again, easy to do. Easy to do. 

Emotional Invalidators

Now, there are a couple of other kinds of invalidators that I'm going to talk about really briefly. One of the most important, and this, oftentimes, I think, is a very obvious one is the emotional invalidator. How many times have we encountered these people in our lives? This is the stereotypical garden-variety emotional invalidator who disagrees with other people's feelings, or argues that other people's feelings are not reasonable, or tries to talk them out of their feelings.

For example, if you have ever been crying for some random reason, and your partner wanders in and says, “You shouldn't be sad about that.” Or “It wasn't that big of a deal.” Or doesn't even acknowledge the fact that you are in the grips of a big emotion, or tries to cheer you up. Again, these responses to emotion often come from — this is hard to even say out loud, but it's so true — they are honestly well-intentioned. 

Somebody thinks that they're trying to make you feel better. “Look on the bright side. Or at least, X, Y, Z.” Or, “You know? Forget about that. Let's go do something fun. Let me distract you from your feelings.” Oftentimes, people are trying to help you because they perceive emotions as being problematic, dark emotions as being something negative that need to be avoided. They themselves are often not that great in noticing how they feel or being able to stay engaged with their own negative emotions, which is a core component of emotional intelligence. It's hard to do. 

Again, not to genderify, but many men, as we've talked about on this podcast previously, are not socialized to have a really deep relationship with their own feelings. So many little boys to this day get yelled at for crying or punished for having “negative,” I prefer to call them, dark emotions. There's a lot of negative connotations around those. Emotional invalidators often will see someone in the grips of a negative emotion and be like, “Oh, no, I have to get them out of there because that's not good,” not recognizing that it is so positive and so important for all of us to really be in those fully present spaces sometimes. 

Like, “I am having an authentic experience right now. I am feeling really, really sad about this situation.” Or “My feelings were hurt.” Or “I just feel really bad about this situation that happened at work. I don't know what to do.” Or “I'm feeling so overwhelmed” Or… Whatever it is, in order for us to grow and to be genuinely healthy, we need to go into those spaces, and stay there, and process our feelings, and take wisdom from those feelings. 

The best thing that any of us can do when our partner is in that space is to say, “Tell me more about what's going on.” Open-ended questions. “When did you start feeling this way? What were the triggers? What happens to you in these moments?” Or to say nothing at all, just to sit there with somebody and allow them the luxury of having their feelings validated in your presence. Because just to simply be present with someone when they're not okay is such a gift. It's so emotionally intimate. We don't show everyone in the world that side of us. 

But in our most intimate relationships, we are extending this treasure of, “This is how I really feel. This is who I really am. This is what is true for me.” To simply have that be acknowledged, and accepted, and not argued with, and not to have someone try to change it or do something about it, is the greatest gift that we can ever give. That really is how to connect with someone. Anything else leads them to feel like, “They don't care about how I'm feeling. My feelings are not important to them. My feelings are making them uncomfortable. So I need to fix myself back up again because they can't handle it.” 

Do you want somebody to feel that way with you? I don't. So just to be aware of that in those moments. Even just a hug, or “I hear you,” or “Yeah, that is a really hard situation. That is legitimately so hard. I'm so sorry that that is happening. I know that there is nothing that I can do, and I'm just so grateful that you're sharing these feelings with me right now. Because I appreciate that we have that kind of relationship where you let me into this.” Just even saying simple things like that can be just the most amazing thing you could possibly do.

Mr./Ms. Fix-It 

A close cousin of this emotional invalidation, somebody who's very uncomfortable with dark emotions, is the other well-intentioned person that is a Mr. Fix It or Ms. Fix It in those moments of, somebody is struggling with something hard and what they're trying to do, honestly and legitimately, is saying, “I love you so much. I'm going to solve this problem. Let's fix it because I don't want you to feel bad about this. Let's fix it.” So it is, “I'll pick the kids up tomorrow.” Or “Let me. It's okay. Here's what we should do instead,” and jumping right into solutions.”

Hey, I am all about solutions. Yes, all couples need to solve actual problems together. There are so many moments of opportunity for productive, collaborative problem solving that do actually make changes in the way you do things, where you talk to each other, the way you handle things, related to parenting, or finances, or boundaries. So much stuff. There is a time and place to actually focus on making specific changes. 

What often happens to the detriment of relationships is when people jump into that problem-solving space at the expense of the emotional-connection space. Again, it is so well-intentioned, but I can't even tell you how many couples I've worked with in couples therapy or relationship coaching, where we had to stay awhile on helping people understand how those efforts are actually received on an emotional level by their partner. 

Because when someone says, “I'm just feeling so overwhelmed by the situation, right now. I'm feeling so frustrated.” And somebody is like, “Okay, well, let's just do this. And then, it'll never happen again,” they don't experience that as being helpful. The message it sends is, “I don't want to hear about it. We need to just fix this immediately, stop talking about this. I don't want to know how you're feeling about it. I am going to shut the door of emotion. We'll fix this, so we can never talk about it again.” It's kind of how it's experienced.

Again, noble intentions, problem-solving is good. But without the space of being able to connect and really talk about the feelings and help your partner feel genuinely validated in that moment, it does the opposite of what is often intended, which is to fix something. What it actually does is create emotional disconnection in the relationship. It turns into, “Well, she doesn't want to hear about it, or she's just going to tell me to do this thing differently. So, whatever.” It creates withdrawal. It makes people feel uncared for and they're not truly known by their partner, which over time leads to serious disconnection in a relationship. 

Again, we'll talk more about that emotional intimacy in upcoming podcast episodes. But be aware if this is something that you tend to do in relationships is that rushing in to fix or trying to talk people out of their feelings. I will bet you a cookie that subjectively, you feel in those moments like you're trying to be helpful. You're trying to make them feel better. You're trying to look for solutions, all positive things. But there is a whole other dimension of relationships. 

We must make space for the authentic emotional experience of our partners, and help them feel understood, and respected, and affirmed, and validated by us. Because even if we're fixing things, and trying to keep things positive, our relationships, over time, become really hollowed out when that emotional connection, emotional safety, emotional trust, emotional intimacy is eroded. That is what happens when people are invalidating each other. 

The Arc of Change is Experiential

Lastly, just want to share that these patterns are often entrenched in relationships. They can be difficult for all of us to see when we are doing them because our intentions are often good in those moments. I would just like to float the idea that your partner probably experiences those moments similarly. They struggle to understand how their responses may be impacting you. So, certainly, would invite you to get them to listen to this podcast if that would be helpful, just to raise some awareness. 

Also, these things are hard. I spend, easily, several sessions with couples, helping them gain self-awareness about these interactions, in these small moments that invalidation is happening in order to help them recognize them and do something different instead. So I always feel bad in some ways. I love making these podcasts for you. I hope that you find the information in them to be helpful. But I also just want to say out loud that the process of creating change in these areas is not just about getting information, listening to a podcast, and being like, “Okay, cool, I'm gonna do this instead.” 

The actual arc of change is experiential. It occurs over time. So I just want to say that because I always worry that people will hear one of these podcasts and then assume that they should be able to do all of this stuff now that they've heard this, or even worse, that their partner listens to this podcast and should be able to do this stuff differently because of having benefited from this information. Personal growth does not work that way. Personal growth is never an event. It is a process that starts with maybe information. But then, it has to turn into self-awareness and recognition. That is very experiential in nature. 

I just wanted to offer that so that you are gentle with yourself if this is a growth opportunity for you. Also, so that you are gentle with your partner. I hope that if you take nothing else away from our discussion today, please do take away this idea that if you are feeling invalidated in your relationship, as is so common, to take away that the fact that when people are engaging in behaviors that are experienced as invalidating, they are not intending to hurt you. There is a huge lack of awareness around the impact of these behaviors. 

To be gentle and compassionate with your partner, and shift into a more effective stance of “Let's work on this. Let me help you understand what's happening in these moments. Let's try this again. Here's what I'm looking for you. I'm looking for emotional intimacy right now. I'd love to feel more of this with you. When these things happen, I don't feel emotionally connected to you. I'd like that to change.” 

Having those kinds of conversations are just so much more helpful in the long run than having it just turn into a fight or being really critical with your partner because they maybe don't have the self-awareness or the skills yet to help you feel validated in those moments. Because we all engage in invalidating behaviors, sometimes, it's so easy to do, and I hope that we can all have grace with each other and help each other grow and evolve. That is my intention for us today. 

I hope that you took something away from this podcast. Hey, if you did, as a favor to me and your fellow travelers on this journey of growth, if you could, trot over to wherever you're listening to this podcast, and leave a review. That helps this podcast reach more people. As you probably know, we don't do any advertising. This is not a mercenary thing. 

This is me trying to help people who are probably never going to be my clients but to take hopefully valuable little bits of information away that will help them have more happy, and loving, and stable, honestly, relationships, and marriages, and families, and homes that can improve their lives, also the lives of their children, for kids to grow up in a home where there is an emotionally safe relationship happening with them, and their parents. To witness that in their partners, that is what lasts for generations. 

So help other people find this show. Review it. Share it on social media, this episode and others. I would really appreciate it not just for myself, but for everybody that can benefit from hearing this message, too. So thank you again for being here today. I will be back in touch next week with another episode of the Love, Happiness, and Success Podcast. Bye-bye.

Why Husbands Don’t Communicate

Why Husbands Don’t Communicate

Why Husbands Don’t Communicate

Communication in Marriage

In my work as a Denver couples counselor, a number of frequent patterns occur. In heterosexual relationships a common complaint that I hear coming from the female partner falls along the lines of, “I can recognize that something is up with my husband, but I just can’t get him to communicate or talk to me about what is going on?” This complaint can take any number of forms, but the common trend amongst all of them is that wives frequently struggle to talk with their husbands about problems, emotions, and difficult things occurring in, or outside of the family. This dynamic leads to extraordinarily high levels of frustration and loneliness for BOTH partners.  

Why Doesn’t My Husband Communicate?

It’s important to take a quick look at why husbands frequently struggle with communication or refuse to engage in conversations revolving around emotions. In general, men are socialized differently than women when it comes to communication and emotions. The classic examples would fall to methods of play encouraged between boys and girls growing up. 

Traditionally, while girls may be encouraged to engage in play centering around relationship building and communication (i.e. playing with groups of dolls, playing “house”, etc.), boys are encouraged to play in more competitive formats (i.e. sports). These themes, while not as widely displayed today as in years passed, have still largely played out in the present day. 

Additionally, boys are constantly given role models that highlight certain traits or qualities that do not lend themselves to good, emotional communication later in life. Either role models existing in their own fathers, or from movie stars in Hollywood movies, boys are given the message that to be emotional is to be weak and that the only emotion that is useful or “ok” for them to feel is anger. 

If boys do not see examples of good emotional communication in their male role models growing up it becomes increasingly unlikely that they will develop the skills to effectively manage, communicate, and share their emotional experiences with anyone.  

Any number of these factors results in a fairly common experience between couples— one in which the wife is constantly reaching out to her partner to connect emotionally or discuss any perceived dissatisfaction or perceived problem, either from within the relationship itself or outside of the relationship, and her partner either cannot or will not engage.  

Why Does My Husband Shut Down When I Try to Communicate with Him?

Often, the act of opening up to a partner puts these men into a situation where they don’t feel comfortable, either because they feel like they don’t know what to say, what/how to feel, or even that there is no use in examining their own or their partners feelings. 

The end result being that men are more likely to ignore an issue and just press on in life until the issue goes away or simply try and solve the issue on their own instead of talking about the issue itself.  

What I know as a couples therapist/coach is that, although this may be largely effective for a man operating in isolation, it can be disastrous for a couple. It tends to lead to a cycle where the wife constantly tries to connect with her husband on these topics, is rejected, and the husband annoyed, ultimately leading to one or both partners feeling isolated, upset, or lonely.  

This leads to resentments building up over time and significant relationship distress. So how can wives help their husbands learn and move into this sphere of communication and connect?  

Let's Talk. Schedule a Free Consultation Today.

Provide Space and Time for Processing

If you find that you try to talk to your husband as soon as an issue or problem occurs, this may be something that is leading them to shut down. Due to the ways in which men are socialized, they may be slower to process, draw conclusions, or adequately determine how they themselves feel about an issue or problem at the same speed that their wives do.  

It is important to give them the time to do so, for if they have the time to process it will afford them the ability to communicate more clearly and genuinely when you do come and approach them to talk about something.  

Try soothing statements like: “I can see that what has just happened is bothering you, I know that it is bothering me as well and I’d love to talk through this together. I want to make sure that we both have time to think about this and process it, could we convene tonight before bed to talk about it?”

Don’t Try and Tell Your Husband How They Should Feel

Sometimes, when we get into intense conversations with our partners, they may not have responses or feelings yet about what has happened. Similar to the point above, husbands may need additional time to sort these things out. 

Well-meaning wives may jump in utilizing some empathy to make assumptions about what their husband is feeling and speak for them (i.e. “You must be really angry right now that this happened”) but this can ultimately lead to a bigger wedge in the communication. By letting your partner come to their own understanding of how they are feeling and what they are feeling – you are giving them the space to build trust and comfortability in communication. 

Try to Talk to Them While Doing a Shared-Task or Activity

Something about sitting down for a “serious” talk in a formal setting can increase feelings of anxiety, fear, and reluctance for difficult conversations. One way to help alleviate these feelings is to try and engage in these conversations while doing a neutral, shared-task or activity together. Talking while going on a walk, washing dishes, or any neutral activity that involves some degree of physical movement. If the traditional setting that you try to engage with your husband in difficult conversations isn’t working try to change the setting!

Be Patient and Clear About What Your Needs Are

Frequently, wives tend to give up and forgo their own need to communicate and connect over difficult topics/emotions with their husbands. While this may lead to a certain degree of harmony/peace in the short term, the long term emotional impact can be severe for wives and make the conversations more difficult down the line. 

Always try to be patient with your partner, but it is absolutely ok and appropriate for you to make your own needs known. Your husband deserves the chance to show you that he is willing to step into an environment that is uncomfortable for him to meet your needs. He can only do that if you are able to clearly communicate to him what your needs are.  

Express Gratitude

When your husband is able to meet with you and engage in difficult conversations, be sure to tell him how it makes you feel. The most difficult thing about trying to engage with a partner about an emotional topic and being rejected is the mystery of not knowing what is going on with your partner.  

The anxiety that results from seeing a partner in distress but not knowing how or why is what leads to the feeling of isolation and loneliness that results in the longer term resentments. So, when your husband is able to be open and honest with you, be sure to reflect to him how he lead to some relief in the anxiety for you. This will incentivize him to continue opening up in the future. If he knows that he is capable of creating relief for you, he will become more likely to keep doing that moving forward. 

When to Seek Couples Counseling

If you still struggle with creating open communication with your husband, it may mean that you need more professional help. It is still absolutely okay to either pursue individual coaching or therapy for yourself or couples therapy with you and your partner

A good couples therapist/coach will meet with both members of a relationship individually to get each partner's take on what is going on. Once doing so, a couples therapist/coach can tailor a treatment plan and interventions specifically to help you both overcome any difficulties or struggles with authentic, open communication.  

That being said effective couples therapy comes from commitment and “buy-in” to the process from both partners. If at first your husband is reluctant to try couples therapy, it may be helpful to tell him that most couples therapists (and all therapists and coaches at Growing Self) offer a free consultation, where the husband can meet a potential therapist face-to-face to see if that therapist seems like a good fit.  

It is important for both partners to feel comfortable with and trust their therapist. If your husband doesn’t feel comfortable with the first few therapists you meet with that’s okay! Sometimes finding a therapist that is the right fit for you takes time, but there is a therapist out there that can definitely work for you.  

A Note to Husbands…

If you are a husband reading this and finding that you do struggle to communicate with your wife on difficult topics, there are some things that you can do as well. What your wife may be needing, more than anything else, is to not have to guess at what you may be thinking or feeling.  

If she doesn’t know what is going on with you or what you are thinking/feeling she is going to try to find out— especially if she perceives that something may be wrong (even if there really isn’t anything wrong). If she doesn’t know, she may start to feel anxious about it and keep asking or trying to figure it out until she knows.  

As her partner and husband, it is fully within your power and ability to help ease her anxiety about not knowing. If you can, do everything you can to be as fully genuine about what may be going on for you internally, this will help your wife a great deal in easing the anxiety of not knowing.  

It may be really difficult for you to do this at first. It can be scary to open up, or even not seem important to open up about what is going on internally for you, but by doing so it will lead to a genuinely happier and more harmonious relationship for you and your wife in the long run.  

Wishing you the best,

Broomfield Marriage Counselor Online Gottman Couples Therapist Online Relationship Coach Broomfield Couples Therapy Silas

Silas Hendrich, M.S., MFTC is a couples counselor, therapist and life coach with an easy-going, humorous, and down-to-earth style that makes personal growth work both enjoyable and effective. His tireless support, encouragement, and expertise helps you get motivated to make real and lasting change in yourself and your relationships.

Real Help For Your Relationship

Lots of couples go through challenging times, but the ones who turn "rough-patches" into "growth moments" can come out the other side stronger and happier than ever before.


Working with an expert couples counselor can help you create understanding, empathy and open communication that felt impossible before.


Start your journey of growth together by scheduling a free consultation.

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Power Struggle In Relationships

Power Struggle In Relationships

Power Struggle In Relationships

Power Struggle In Relationships: How to Break Through Gridlock


Power Struggle In Relationships

Marriage Power Struggle… Solutions

What is a power struggle in relationships? Relationship power struggles grind into being when two people have very strong, opposing opinions, or conflicting desires about a particular outcome and cannot find a compromise. Both partners hold on tightly to their position, becoming more polarized and un-budging. Compromise feels impossible, empathy plummets, and frustration spikes. Not fun!

Also, what I know from years of experience as a Denver marriage counselor, and online relationship coach is that power struggle in marriage are so, so common. Problems — even perpetual problems — and arguments in a romantic relationship are inevitable. As we've discussed in previous episodes of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast, many times productive conflict can be really healthy.  But power struggles that become gridlock issues that feel unsolvable need to be managed with care, before they erode the emotional safety of your relationship.

That's why I'm putting on my “relationship coach” hat today, and why we're devoting an entire episode of the podcast to marriage power struggle solutions, as well as how to avoid power struggles in the first place.

If you're finding yourself stuck in a battle of the wills and unable to move past a relationship hurdle, this relationship podcast episode is packed full of tips, advice, and help. You can work together to resolve your differences — even ones that feel big. I'm going to walk you through some steps that can help resolve gridlocked conflicts and power struggles in romantic relationships.

I discuss what they are, why they exist, and an example illustrating gridlocked conflicts. Additionally, I touch on personality differences between couples and why they can affect relationship dynamics and ultimately lead to power struggles.

If you and your partner often have unproductive conflicts that feel like they turn into a fight to the death about who's way is “right” … this episode is for you.

Let's Talk. Schedule a Free Consultation Today.

Understanding Power Struggles

First, we'll start by digging in to what power struggles are, why power struggles happen, and what types of things you can do to start breaking down the walls.

  1. Discover the factors that may lead to gridlocked conflicts in a relationship.
  2. Learn how you and your partner can brainstorm productively to reach a solution.
  3. Know about personality differences that may cause power struggles in a relationship.

Episode Highlights

Gridlocked Conflicts in Romantic Relationships

  • Gridlocked issues happen when a couple argues and is unable to compromise.
  • These issues are common in romantic relationships.
  • It is vital to address these issues so that they don’t create too much negativity and resentment between the partners.
  • Sometimes it is difficult to get out of a gridlocked conflict that has turned into a power struggle.
  • Knowing what gridlock and power struggles are and how to walk them back and avoid them are essential relationship skills.

When Conflicts Start to Polarize, and Power Struggles Start

  • When you are not in agreement with your partner, you tend to dig more deeply.
  • Couples are pushed further apart when conflicts intensify.
  • It’s like struggling to untie a knot but you end up tightening it unintentionally.
  • One example of conflict is when parents have to make the decision to send their child to school despite the ongoing health crisis.
  • When couples campaign more actively for the other person to understand their side, they are unintentionally creating a dynamic where they will less likely resolve the conflict.

Overcoming Gridlocked Conflicts & Power Struggle in Relationships

While understanding why power struggles in relationships can happen in the first place (and how to, hopefully, avoid them) is an incredibly important relationship skill, it's also necessary to understand how to resolve power struggles once they begin. This is because sooner or later, all couples encounter this. Knowing how to successfully work through a gridlock conflict without damaging the trust and goodwill in your relationship is vital.

Listen to this episode to learn more about how. Specifically: 

  • Communication strategies that allow you to find a path forward together and stay connected as a couple, even when you see things differently.
  • Why stepping away can paradoxically help you move forward.
  • How resolving power struggles can actually help you deepen the love, understanding, trust and compassion in your relationship.
  • Ways to utilize power struggles and gridlock conflict to increase the creativity and possibilities in your shared life together.

Real Help For Your Relationship

I share SO many new ideas, strategies and relationship advice in this episode, but the key to making it all work is by having productive, emotionally safe conversations with your partner that connect you rather than pushing you further apart.

If this is feeling hard right now, a structured activity like my free, online  “How Healthy is Your Relationship” Quiz can be a starting place to have a productive conversation about how you're both feeling, and what you're each needing to improve your communication, feel more loved and respected, and get on the same page so you can work together as a team.

Enjoy this Relationship Podcast?

We discussed so many things in todays episode related to power struggles in relationships, how to avoid power struggles, and solutions for power struggles. I hope they help you. You can listen to the full episode using the player below.

If you enjoyed today’s episode of the Love, Success, and Happiness Podcast, then hit subscribe and share it with your friends!

Thanks for listening! 

Wishing you both all the best on your journey of growth, together.

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Power Struggles In Relationships

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credits: The Coathangers, “Down Down”

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She's the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Power Struggle in Relationships

Episode Transcript
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you're listening to the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast. 


New topic, today we're talking about power struggles and gridlock conflict. That was The Coathangers with the song Down Down, setting the mood for us today because downward spiral is basically what happens, in summary, when couples get stuck in these power struggles, gridlock issues. They're butting heads, no one is compromising. No one is budging. And it's a stalemate. Not a fun place to be in, but a very common situation in relationships. And believe it or not, a solvable problem. 


And one that I've been hearing a lot of you are struggling with lately. I've been hearing from your comments on the blog at growingself.com on Instagram at @drlisamariebobby that this is turning into a pretty major pain point in your relationship. So we are talking about this today on the show. And I hope by the end of our time together, you have some clarity, and some direction and maybe even some new ideas for things to try to break through the impasse and cultivate compromise and agreement with the one you love most. 


If this is your first time listening today, hello, I am Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby. I am the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. And this is the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast. Every week we tackle topics that are important to you and that are helpful in your quest for love and exciting, happy, fulfilling relationshipsboth romantic and platonic. Happiness, meaning that you are feeling good about yourself and your life, and also success that you are being who you were put here to be and creating success according to your own definition. So, every week we are talking about something related to that often based on your questions. So if you have a question for me, leave it on the blog at growingself.com, or get in touch on Instagram at @drlisamariebobby or on Facebook at Dr. Lisa Bobby


And I really wanted to tackle this subject of gridlock issues today because, oh, you guys, it's been coming up so much. And let me tell you where this has been coming up in particular, lately it is related to couples who are not on the same page about how to handle issues related to Coronavirus. Now, certainly gridlock issues are nothing new. I have been a marriage counselor, a relationship coach and a psychologist for a long time and frequently work with couples or individuals in relationships where there is just, both people have dug in around their individual positions. And it is often around a black and white issue. That's kind of the definition of a gridlock conflict. One person wants to have a baby, the other does not. One person needs to live by the ocean, the other one needs to live in the mountains. Or they really want to live with their family of origin, back in the small town in Mississippi, and the other person must live in New York or they're going to die. I mean, it's like things that are difficult to compromise around. Yes or no. Black or white. This or that. 


And I wanted to address it because gridlock conflict is one of these things that almost all couples face at some point or anothervery commonagain. But it's also one of those things that if you don't have a plan to get through it, it will create so much negativity and hostility and conflict and resentment. And the relationship over time it can really, again, begin to eat away at the fabric of your positive partnership. And it's very easy to get into a good gridlock conflict, we'll certainly talk about why it is hard to get out of a gridlock conflict that has turned into a power struggle. But there is a path forward. 


So first of all, let's talk about what happens to every couple when they get into a power struggle around a gridlock conflict where it feels like one person is going to win, and one person is going to lose. And each person starts fighting to the death to have their way of seeing things prevail and be accepted by their partner. And so, if you will, just enter into this mindset with me, right? Because we've all been there. I have done this, you have done this,  we've all done this. It feels like when things like this come up that are very important to you, it feels like you're right. And you know, you're right. You have 197 reasons why you are right, and why your partner is wrong. And if they could just see things from your perspective, and hear what you're saying and like let it in, then they too would be able to understand the truth. And they would change their mind, their opinions would be swayed. And not only would they agree with you, they would get into alignment with what you want this to look like going forward. And not only that, but when they did, they would be so happy they did. Because as soon as they did, they would really understand even more deeply that your perspective was the right one all along. They will have great sorrow and remorse for fighting you tooth and nail. They'll say, “You know what? You were right. It really is better this way. We did the right thing.” And you will smooch, and the credits will come on at the end of the sitcom and you will live happily ever after. If only they would listen, right? 


Okay, maybe not the credits part but that's kind of how it feels when you are in this situation with your partner. I mean, they're just being unreasonable, right? They are not taking in the facts, the truth. They just need to listen. And so we put all of our energy into explaining to them why we're right and they are wrong. It may involve charts, graphs, pictures, outside sources, scientific journal articles. Exhibit A. They need to talk to your Uncle Joe, who is going to tell you the same thing that you're telling them. It turns into a campaign, right? 


And as you are probably experiencing in your own life, what happens is that they seem to dig in even more deeply. And the more you try to explain to them why they're wrong and why you're right, they argue with you. They don't listen. They even start avoiding and it just turns into this whole thing. Or they try to tell you why you're wrong, and then you have to argue with them why they're telling you that you're wrong is actually wrong. And, right? It is a spiral down and it tends to intensify. And it tends to polarize, meaning that it pushes couples further apart. And both people dig in deeper, and over time, it starts to feel increasingly hopeless. Not fun, not fun for anyone. 


And I'll tell you what, I actually, a lot of this is coming up as I mentioned around coronavirus. I met with a journalist for an interview recently as I sometimes do, and her question was, “Dr. Lisa, what do you do with a couple who, for example, Parent A really wants their kids to go to school this fall, doesn't feel that the risk is that big, we can manage it, it's going to be okay. And the benefits to the child of being in school, or the benefits to our family of the child being in school outweighs the risks of them getting sick or anybody else getting sick. So they should go to school. And Parent B is like, no, the risk is too high. The consequences are too severe. I am not willing to risk the health and safety of our child, of ourselves, of our community. And even if it's gonna be hard on us, we will figure it out.”


That is real quickly turning into a big gridlock battle for a lot of couples in, you know, school is one thing but it can also be like, “Should we or shouldn't we go into the grocery store versus online delivery? Is it okay to go over to our friends’ houses? Is it alright for our child to have playdates?” And sort of this like, “How are we as a couple managing the risk of coronavirus?” And oftentimes when a person perceives the threat as being more serious and real than the other, it can turn into big gridlock issues. But again, gridlock can happen around many, many different kinds of thingsfrom parenting to finances, to how we spend our time together, to major life decisions about what we are doing with our family, having more children. 


And so knowing what gridlock is, and what power struggles are, and how to not just walk them back but ideally avoid them is a very necessary and important relationship skill. So we might be talking about coronavirus stuff today, but please know that these are all very generalizable skills. 


And so one thing to know about gridlock conflict, it's like, I think maybe a good metaphor here, it's like struggling to untie a knot and you indirectly and unintentionally tighten the knot. The more that you like to try to untie it, something gets increasingly snarled. And this is a really good way of understanding what happens in power struggles and what to not do. 


When couples begin to fight with each other more vigorously and more actively campaign for the other person to listen and understand and respect their side, they are unintentionally creating a dynamic where it is less likely that the conflict will be satisfactorily resolved. And instead, it intensifies the power struggle underlying the conflict. And this is a hard one because it feels natural to fight. It feels natural to advocate for your position. And in this situation, it is the least helpful approach. 


Again, going back to the words of Dr. John Gottman, who is a researcher in the field of marriage and family therapy. He's probably the most famous and well-founded researcher in the field of marriage and family therapy. His words of wisdom, which are hard to take in. Because I don't want to get into a power struggle with you, my friend, but so I'm just gonna say this out loud and let you marinate on this for a second is thatsome problems are actually unsolvable in the sense that there will always be major differences between you, in the way that you see some things, in the way that you prefer things to be done in your values, in the way that you, I don’t know, the hierarchy of information and the way that you process things. There will always be these differences in a relationship. And again, this is hard to let in if you feel like, especially if you feel like a decision must be made, that the path through it is an indirect one. It is, let's see, what is Dr. Gottman’s quote. He says, “Your purpose is not to solve the conflict completely. It will never go away completely. The goal is to ‘declaw’ the issue and try to remove the hurt so that the problem stops being a source of great pain.”


I know that is probably not what you wanted me to say right now. You wanted me to tell you, “Okay, here's a communication technique that you can use to get your partner to actually hear you this time so that they can let in what you're saying. And then finally agree with you so that you can both move on.” That is actually, again, not the goal. The goal is to take away the pain, to accept unsolvable problems, and find a path together that allows you to stay connected as a couple. And let's talk a little bit more deeply about what achieving that looks like in practice. Because if you're thinking, “I can't do that, that's hard.” It is hard, it is hard. And it's unnecessary. 


So the first thing to do, instead of fighting, if you find yourself getting into a power struggle with your partner, is to very intentionally and deliberately step away from trying to find resolution. Stop trying to solve the unsolvable problem. And instead put all of your energy and attention into seeking to understand where your partner is coming from. Your only job in the first stages of this is towith your full attention and insincerity, no ulterior motives hereis to put yourself in their shoes. Seek to understand how they're thinking, and how they're feeling in a very respectful and authentic way. 


And I do mean this. It has to be sincere, it cannot be, “Well, if I understand them and I make them understand that I get it, then they will be able to understand where I'm coming from. And will finally see my point of view, and we can just do it my way and move on.” That can't be the intention, it really has to be, “No. My job right now is to understand the person that I love and their point of view.” So what that looks like is saying, “We're going around and around in circles about this, we are not coming to an agreement. And you know what? I think we've been going about this the wrong way. Let's instead really put our full attention and just understand each other instead of fighting with each other. I'm going to go first, tell me more about how you're feeling and how you see this.” And really, I mean over a series of conversations, ask your partner, “Tell me more.” 


When you think about the costs outweigh the benefits of our child going to school, what comes up in your mind? What do you imagine could happen if we do it the way that I'm advocating? And really make it an emotionally safe place for your partner to talk about their fears, their values, their concerns, their feelings, what it's attached to in terms of their orientation to the world. And really help them know that you understand. 


And so you might hear someone saying things like, “Well, we don't know anyone that's gotten sick from coronavirus. And, when I think about how hard it's been for our family this past summer, and kids are watching way too much TV. And I really feel very afraid of them falling behind academically. I worry that they're missing big foundational things academically that will be very difficult for them to make up, and that they might struggle later in life as a result of this. I worry that our 12-year-old is at a crucial moment in terms of their social development. And if they don't have kind of normal experiences with other kids, it's really going to change the way they show up in relationships well into adulthood. Those things make me feel afraid. And so when I am digging my heels in about, ‘No, I think that kids should go to school,’ it's really because I'm worried about what will happen to them if we don't. And I also think, we're strong, we're healthy, we don’t have underlying health conditions.” I mean, it could be all kinds of things. 


And for someone who feels differently about this, this can be a very triggering conversation. As you sit with your partner and really, they're talking about things that you don't agree with, your job in these moments is to calm down. If your heart rate starts to go up, and you feel like you're going into fight-or-flight trigger mode, you will not be able to hear anything they're saying. And your job is to calm yourself back down, take a break if you have to. And really just remember that your only job right now is to listen to them and understand them, and in a respectful and sincere way. 


And it takes time to do that, particularly if you're feeling triggered and flooded. And the things that they're saying are scaring you to death, frankly. And, of course, then, once your partner's feelings are really heard and respected and understood, the other step is to then give you the opportunity to have the same experience with themwhere they settle into understanding you. And you get to talk about your perspective around, “People are dying and even people who don't die sometimes have severe and persistent health consequences. And yeah, maybe kids don't get as sick as adults but they do get sick. And here's what can happen if they do. And think about what might happen to us in our family if you and I get this. And what would happen to our children if you and I are incapacitated or hospitalized or not able to work or function as a result of being sick. And what could this mean.” And it could be anything from your point of view, and I'm again talking about coronavirus. 


It could be like, “This is what having another child means to me and this is what I hope about the experience. And what I'm afraid of is if we don't…” I mean, like really unpack it. It doesn't certainly have to be specific to this but really go deeply, deeply into it. And again, simply with a goal of understanding, we are not here to solve problems. We are just here to understand each other's hopes and dreams, and fears, and values, and perspectives. And help each other feel heard and respected and understood.


And couples can absolutely do this on their own, particularly if they're good at staying calm and shifting away from their own perspective to the degree that they can allow in their partners. If you find that it feels impossible to do this, that you can't actually just let their partner talk about the way they feel without wanting to interrupt them or tell them why they're wrong, or if they're not able to do that for you and it just is turning into a conflict, and listening and understanding isn't possible to happen—that is a great sign that you actually do need the support of a marriage counselor or relationship coach. Somebody who can keep you from getting into a fight and instead simply hold the door open to allow both of you to understand each other on a very, very deep level. 


And what you will often find when you do is that when you're able to dig deeply down into core values, core feelings, and away from “what are we going to do to solve this problem” part, you'll find that at the core, there are many more similarities and commonalities than there are differences. You both love your children. You both want to have a happy, satisfying life together. You both want meaning and purpose and joy and freedom and security, and all of these things. Like, there's a lot of alignment at the foundational level. And coming into that place and reconnecting with all of the commonalities that you guys do have, in the context of feeling secure with each other—respected by each other, understood, really gotten on a deep level—then allows you to have the opportunity to begin crafting a middle path that is very deliberately taking into consideration, and prioritizing both of your hopes, both of your fears, and it turns into an entirely different conversation. 


And the other thing that's really neat is that when people get into power struggles and gridlock conflicts, it really does feel like a fight. And all of your energy is going into why you're right and why they're wrong, and, you know, if only they were just XYZ, which makes each of you really entrenched in one particular worldview. Like the more you kind of tell yourself why you're right and why they're wrong, and the more often you try to explain to them what your perspective makes the most sense, you're selling yourself on your view of the world. And also, unintentionally, limiting your ability to expand your thinking into creative problem solving. It’s impossible to be really creative and come up with novel ideas and solutions, and the playfulness that's required to get really creative feels absolutely inaccessible when you're stuck in a conflict. 


But when you can come back to a place of emotional safety and listening and understanding and respecting, you can generate novel ideas, be creative. You can play with each other. You can say, “Let's play a game. If we were going to do this, and it was absolutely without any of the risks that we've identified as being a concern here, well, what could it look like?” And along those lines, being able to shift away from your fear, your concern, your hopes into “our fear,” “our hopes,” that you both take ownership for the perspective that each of you hold. And that it doesn't become your partner's fear, it becomes “our concern.” Because your partner's feelings and perspectives in the stage of healing do actually need to be just as important as yours are. And when you use language like “our concerns,” “our hopes,” it communicates on many levels that whatever we ultimately decided to do about this is going to honor and prioritize your feelings as part of the solution, or we're not going to do it. And that needs to happen both ways. 


But if that becomes the truth, that both of your feelings are actually equally as valid as important, and you're tasked with finding a solution that respects both of those priorities, what could that look like? And the answer is often a final “solution” that may be very different than the one that either of you were campaigning for in the very beginning. It could look like all kinds of different things. I mean, there are 100 different ways that schooling and socializing a child can actually look like in the time of a pandemic, that may or may not involve them setting a foot in a school building, and may or may not involve them sitting in front of a computer all day. I mean, I won't go into the dozens and dozens of plausible ways to educate and socialize children that are actually at all of our disposal because that's for you to figure out, and be creative around, and dream, and brainstorm. 


And also, let me just—a little tip here. When you are brainstorming, it is very important to throw out any and all ideas specifically and especially the ones that seem absolutely ridiculous and not like anything anyone would ever do. Because when you allow yourself that kind of disinhibition and just creative kind of spelunking and splashing around, you'll be amazed at what can come out of each of your head. And yes, 90% of it is going to be total rubbish and nothing that anybody would ever do, but there can be little diamonds and gems hidden away in all the mud and rubble. And your job is to create an environment of emotional safety and collaborative problem solving that is respectful, and that's prioritizing each other's feelings, and see what happens. Is this a fast process? No. It is usually going to take many days of intentional conversation and sincere efforts to understand each other first before we can change the emotional tone of a relationship enough to get into this nice place of collaborative understanding. And that can create anxiety for people, particularly if they feel that a deadline is looming. 


I will also say that—I think we've talked about this on other shows—there is a personality feature that's pretty common, but that can be very different between people in a couple. So without going into way too much information, there are different facets of personality, and sort of the way that you measure in different domains essentially creates your personality as a whole. One way of getting into it is through a personality assessment called the “Big Five of Personality.” I think that Myers-Briggs has some utility, which looks at personality along four different basic dimensions. But one of the most prominent ones that can come to play when it comes to gridlock issues and power struggles is a personality difference, where some individuals really like to be thinking ahead, and planning, and problem-solving, and anticipating problems, and proactively solving problems that may happen in the future and like trying to figure out what is going to happen, and they have a very future orientation. These are the people who have all of the weekends of their summer vacations scheduled by mid-May. They know they are going camping on the weekend of August the 27th with John and Carla. They like to have stuff figured out mentally and kind of put into place. And there can be other personality characteristics that kind of cluster with this basic orientation. But you know, they're planners, right? 


And at the other end of the spectrum is a personality type that is much more comfortable with leaving things open, with things being ambiguous. The personality tends to be confident that we'll be able to solve whatever problems come up in the moment, and we don't actually have to think about too far ahead because we'll deal with it when it gets there. And they tend to be slower to arrive at solutions, and they also just have a much lower need to know what is going to happen. And they also can feel stressed when they're kind of forced to be making decisions about things that maybe they don't have all the information they feel like they need. That, in itself, can create anxiety, and it can also create resistance. And what it can look like in a relationship is somebody saying, “I don't know. I don't want to talk about this right now. It's all gonna work out.” You know, which can be, as you can imagine, extremely frustrating to somebody who has more planning orientation who's like, “No, we need to figure this out today. I need to know what we are doing when school starts three weeks from now because I can't stop thinking about it.” And the other side of this, people with a planning orientation tend to feel a lot of anxiety when it feels like there are loose ends, when they don't know what is going to happen. 


So this is a common dynamic that can also be at the core level of a lot of power struggles in relationships is people with differences in their decision-making style and their planning style. And so, also being able to have conversations about the way you make decisions and your anxiety level about leaving things open versus anxiety around making specific plans that may or may not be based in reality because it feels better just to have a plan. A plan—doesn't matter. For a couple to be talking about those differences can also go a long way and just decreasing the overall level of annoyance because you're understanding why your partner is the way that they are. And it can add a kind of context for the conversations and help you both be respectful of what each other is needing. And also, potentially, both of you, maybe as individuals, taking efforts inside of yourself to come a little bit more to the center. So maybe if you have a strong planning orientation, getting more comfortable with the idea that, “I don't actually know what this is gonna look like a couple months from now. And so maybe we do need to take this a little bit more day by day, week by week.” And for somebody who has a more open-ended orientation to be able to come back to the middle and say, “We do actually need to figure out, generally speaking, what we would like this to look like. Let's find out the best situation. You know, it may change in the future, but we do need to have some conversations around what we're going to do.” Because the default in any power struggle is that the person who is digging their heels in and not doing anything often wins by default because it blocks action from taking place.


So anyway, I'm probably getting way more into the weeds about some of the psychological dynamics at the root of our conflicts than any of you care to listen to. But these can be some of the obstacles in the path of couples seeking to create alignment and just things for you to be keeping in the back of your mind. And again, I am talking about this like it's easy—it is not. As a marriage counselor, as a relationship coach, I often have to spend a long time with couples over many conversations as we unwind all of this stuff. You know, talking about different ways of thinking, different values, different messages from one's family of origin, about the way things should be, and goes into, “Why am I the way I am? Why are you the way you are.” And again, this is necessary pre-work and really is the work in many ways of successfully unwinding a power struggle, and eventually creating alignment and collaborative problem-solving. But it feels very, very indirect while you're doing it because the goal is not to solve the problem, it's to understand. Again, hard to do. 


For many couples, it requires support to be able to hold this space with each other, especially when it feels like you do need to make a decision, and you know, we also need to be respectful of external pressures. If you are a 38, 39-year-old woman who is married to someone who still isn't totally sure if they want to have a baby, you guys actually do need to figure that out pretty quick because, you know, that clock runs out. And if you're figuring out what are we going to do with the kids in two weeks when school is open, or we need to make a decision, and what's that going to look like, that is a thing that does need to be figured out. 


And so, it is also okay to do an intensive when it comes to how we need to understand each other. And also, brainstorming and finding solutions that prioritize each other's feelings, and being open to the possibility that the final outcome may actually look very different than what both of you had imagined it would look like going into it because the ultimate goal really is not to have this be exactly your way. The ultimate goal is to have a strong, healthy, happy relationship with someone who loves you and understands you, and respects you, and feels that your needs and rights and feelings are just as important to them as they are to you, and vice versa. 


And when you're able to create that emotional space with your partner and have a relationship that is infused with respect and gratitude, and not just tolerance for your differences, but an actual like appreciation for your differences, all of a sudden, the big looming problems don't seem like problems anymore. And it can be surprisingly effortless to work together, to create a new reality for each other, for yourselves that feels good for both of you. 


I know that it sounds a little crazy if you're stuck in a power struggle. I know it's so hard to think about letting go of your side and embracing the other. But what are your choices? I mean really, like, because this, continuing to fight, and campaign, and harass your partner into changing clearly doesn't work. And if you wind up taking a unilateral decision that is made for both of you over their wishes, it can create massive damage and betrayal and can be a big emotional trauma that can be difficult to repair. 


So you might want to be arguing with me right now, but try it. Let me know what happens. If you have follow-up questions or comments, leave them for me on the blog at growingself.com, Instagram at @drlisamariebobby, Facebook at Dr. Lisa Bobby


And also, again, just with all of this with the understanding—that if it feels unnecessarily hard, if it is disintegrating into unproductive conflict, or if you need to arrive at a workable decision quickly, those are all signs that you may really benefit from enlisting the support of mediator who can help you create understanding and respect and collaborative solutions much more quickly. So just keep that in the back of your mind as a possibility and good luck with things. I know these are harrowing times, and there's a lot of stuff to hash out together, but I do hope that these strategies help you create alignment and agreement in your relationship. That's all for today. 


I'll be back in touch next week with another episode of the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast. And in the meantime, let's listen to some more Coathangers.


Letting Go Of Resentment

Letting Go Of Resentment

Letting Go Of Resentment

Letting Go Of Resentment


Letting Go Of Resentment

Letting Go Of Resentment

Have you been holding on to feelings of resentment for a very long time? While it is normal to feel resentful at times, it shouldn’t get the best of you and your relationship. Letting go of resentment in a relationship can be tricky and puzzling, but it is possible! Sometimes it's possible to release resentment on your own, and other times it may take the support of a great online marriage counselor or relationship coach. Either way, working with your partner productively is the only way to heal, release resentment and move on.

In todays episode of the podcast, I'm going to share HOW to release resentment.

How to Let Go of Anger and Resentment

In this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast, you will learn more about why resentment in relationships happens. I speak with many couples in my Denver marriage counseling or online couples therapy sessions about how to deal with resentment that's built up over the years.

Today, I'm sharing the same ideas and strategies with you: We will discuss why we should overcome these feelings of bitterness and resentment before they are blown out of proportion and ruin your relationship. I will also talk about the importance of counseling for couples with unresolved issues, if it feels like it's impossible to move past resentment using the techniques I outline in this episode.

Tune in to this episode to learn more about resentment and how you can work toward overcoming it.

“Letting Go of Resentment” Episode Highlights

Listen and learn about:

Two Types of Resentment in Relationships

  • The difference between the two types of resentment depends on the origin and nature of resentment. [More about repairing trust here.]
  • Current resentment: It is a persistent feeling of anger or frustration from a situation that is happening at the moment, like when it feels like one of you is taking on more than your fair share of responsibility.
  • Resentment related to old wounds or past experiences: These are emotionally unresolved resentments and may be related to relationship traumas such as a betrayal or infidelity that you have not moved past.
  • Nonetheless, any type of resentment can create issues in your present relationships and make communication difficult.
  • Feeling resentful toward your partner can make it difficult for you to be kind and loving. You may feel stuck in a place leading to more resentment, over time.

The Experience of Feeling Resentful

  • Resentment can make you behave in less ideal ways in your relationship.
  • It may be hard for your partner to understand your behavior and why you’re acting the way you are.
  • A relationship can become toxic if the resentment starts to translate into negative behavior and actions.
  • It is crucial to deal with resentment productively and directly, through healthy communication strategies.

When Is It Time For Couples Therapy?

  • It might be best to seek help if you cannot discuss the things that are making you feel resentful without it leading to an unproductive conflict. 
  • If you need help, it's a good idea to get it sooner rather than later. If resentment continues, it can grow and turn into hostility and mistrust. It can damage a relationship or marriage, and it makes your relationship more difficult to repair the longer it's allowed to fester.
  • Working with a marriage counselor online or in person can help you move past blame, and start focusing on positive solutions instead.
  • A good relationship professional can be your accountability partner when trying to make real and lasting change that reduce resentment-causing behaviors in a relationship.

Why Online Marriage Counseling Helps

  • Couples therapy online or in person helps a couple become emotionally responsive to each other.
  • It provides an avenue for interaction that improves communication and allows for healing.
  • When couples try to address old resentments by themselves, it can be counterproductive and heavily charged with negative emotions.
  • A marriage counselor, relationship coach or couples therapist can help you have productive conversations even when you're both feeling triggered.

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy

  • EFCT is a type of couples therapy that based on a model and process that allows couples to figure out how to have empathy, validation, and emotional responsiveness.
  • Readdressing unfinished emotional business enables a couple to have healing experiences together.
  • Moving on without resentment is an experiential process.

5 Powerful Takeaways From This Episode

“Resentment only happens because of stuckness. There is a stuck place that is leading to resentment.” 

“But this is the reason why resentment is so incredibly toxic in a relationship and why it absolutely has to be addressed in a productive and direct way.” 

“It's not always okay to act on anger, but always okay to listen to your anger. And then pick up wisdom and guidance from your anger.”

“If you don't create agreements about how we operate, and if it doesn't feel relatively balanced and equitable, and resentment continues to fester, resentment will grow, and over time it will grow into hostility and mistrust, and it will damage a relationship.”

“And there's the path to healing, and it's possible, and I've seen lots of couples do it. And it's absolutely gorgeous and glorious when it does because it often, you know, along the way people do a lot of learning and growing about themselves, and there is laughter; there are tears.”

Enjoy the Podcast?

Learning how you could create love, happiness, and success for yourself has never been this easy. If you enjoyed today's episode of the Love, Success, and Happiness Podcast, hit subscribe and share it with your friends!

Thanks for listening! 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

PS. One of the resources I mentioned in this episode is our “How Healthy is Your Relationship Quiz.” This can be a great way to open the door to a productive conversation with your partner.

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Letting Go Of Resentment

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credits: Duchess Says, “Negative Thoughts”

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She's the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Letting Go Of Resentment

Access Episode Transcript

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you're listening to the Love,  Happiness & Success Podcast.

[Negative Thoughts by Duchess Says]

Yes, it's the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast. And as you may have guessed from our musical intro today which was Duchess Says, by the way, with a song called Negative Thoughts. Today we are tackling yet again another difficult and incredibly common life experience, which is the feeling of holding on tightly with clenched fingers to resentment. Feelings of resentment for things that have happened in the past, things that are happening currently that are annoying, angering, hurtful, and feel very persistent. That's what we're doing today on the show.

Letting Go of Resentment

If you are in particular holding on to resentment about things that your partner has done or has been doing, this one is for you especially. Because holding on to resentment can make it not just difficult to enjoy your relationship in the present, I know, I know well from my experience as a marriage counselor, that resentment when it's bubbling around in your relationship can create its own set of relationship problems. So today, this episode is all about how to let go of resentment in your relationship so that you can both move forward and just start having a good time again. Because you deserve that.

And before we jump in, I just want to thank you all for being here. And I have to tell you, I have been really enjoying all of your comments and questions that you've been tossing at me lately, both through the blog and growingself.com. And those of you that reached out through Instagram @drlisamariebobby on Instagram. I have been reading your questions. I have been recording your questions, and I have been thinking about how to answer your questions meaningfully. So that's, of course where this podcast comes from, too. Because I've heard from a few of you that this is a major pain point in your relationship. Either you feel like you're holding on to resentment or you're feeling really frustrated because your partner seems like they're not letting things go. So we're gonna talk about both sides of this today.

And also I want to thank everyone who has left a review for this podcast lately. I haven't looked at iTunes recently, but I looked the other day and there were so many nice reviews and comments from you guys. And so thank you so much for doing that. Not only does your leaving a nice review and comment, just kind of, you know, make me feel good personally, I like that. But it also more importantly, helps other people find the show. And that's the only way that people find the show. This is not for profit, labor of love that I just kind of like doing. And so we don't advertise. I don't advertise, you know, sponsors or anything like that. So, the only thing we are doing here is really sincerely trying to help people and you're leaving a positive review on iTunes or sharing this with others is the only way it grows. And so thank you for, you know, helping to bump it up a little bit in the eyes of iTunes and also to share this with a fellow traveler who just like the rest of us might need to hear some of these ideas from time to time. So, thank you.

How to Deal With Resentment

So hey, let's dive in. And let's talk about resentment. First, what is it? Where it come from? And then we're going to turn our attention to the most important part, which is how to release it, and move on, and be free at last. So first of all, it is important to know that there are actually two different types of resentment. They can feel the same in the moment when you're actually living it. But the origins are different. And it's important to figure out what kind of resentment you're feeling and where it comes from, because the path to dealing with them is different depending on the nature of the resentment.

So first of all, there is what I think of as current resentment. So current resentment is like this low greed kind of angry, annoyed, agitated feeling that happens when in the present day today, things are happening in your relationship that don't feel good for you, that do not feel fair. You often have this type of feeling when your relationship is feeling out of balance or like you're not getting your needs met. And that it feels very difficult to create change and you're just kind of like living with it. So, you know, you've maybe talked about something and said, “I don't like this and it keeps happening.” You start to feel resentful that it keeps happening and it seems to be persisting despite your desire to have it be different. So that's what I think of as being like current resentment.

Now there is another type of resentment that is really more related to old hurts, usually big ones. And things that have happened in the past, often related to, you know, feeling betrayed by your partner or really let down in a big way by your partner. It's what we think of is like, attachment wounds or something that happened that was so big that it really was quite emotionally at least traumatizing to you. And that it left a mark, you know. And when this kind of resentment is festering for months, years, decades, even after the fact, it means that you've probably agreed to kind of “Yeah, okay, move past it, we move on, that's not happening anymore.” So you're kind of sticking with it and want to let it go. But you can't. It is not resolved emotionally. And until you do handle it appropriately and emotionally, it won't be put to rest and you will continue feeling resentful, even though the original event may have happened like five years ago and is not happening anymore. The resentment experience tells you that there is unfinished emotional business that needs to be dealt with.

Overcoming Resentment

So, two different kinds of resentment. But either way, when you have feelings of resentment inside of you, it will create issues in your relationship above and beyond whatever is leading you to feel resentful. So, regardless of what is triggering the feelings of resentment, what we know is that healthy, happy, satisfying relationships more than anything else require large doses daily of kindness, generosity, appreciation, gratitude, affection, warmth. You know, like that's really the day to day fabric of a relationship are those things. And it is very difficult to be kind, generous, affectionate, warm, understanding, loving, with someone who you are feeling resentful of. And who you feel is either treating you unfairly in the present or has hurt you really badly in the past and no, you are not actually over it. You know, when you're in this space, you are kind of low key angry a lot of the time. And you don't want to give them more, and be more kind and more generous and more compassionate because you, hate is probably a strong word, but maybe sometimes you like hate them a little bit. You know what I mean? And you're just sort of like walking around with that day to day. So it's really difficult for you to be the person that you really need to be in a relationship when you're feeling resentful.

And the thing to know about resentment, and, you know, the key takeaway from this whole episode is that resentment only happens because of stuckness. There is a stuck place that is leading to resentment. If it is a current resentment, you know, present moment based, it's because you're needing things to be different, and they're not being different. And, you know, you may or may not be talking about this openly anymore, but it feels stuck. And that's what's driving the resentment.

And if it's old resentment, if it's, you know, old wound type resentment, it is even harder to talk about. And because of that, it remains stuck. You know, you may have agreed with your partner that, “Yep, that happened a long time ago and things are different now. And it's in the past.” So maybe you don't even feel like you can talk about it anymore. Or your partner's, like, “Would you stop already? We need to move on when you do bring it up,” but it isn't over emotionally and so there's this stuckness. You can't process it emotionally with your partner, you can't get what you need because you feel like it's in the past. And so it removes your feeling of legitimacy to talk about it or maybe your partner has a nasty reaction when you do, so you don'tfeels kind of pointless to talk about. It is just as what it is. And of course that stuckness supports, and festers, and feeds resentment. Stuckness and silence.

The Impact of Unresolved Bitterness and Anger

So, if you are experiencing resentment, if you are experiencing feeling resentful of your partner, and here's the hard part, and you guys I know this is hard and take it in, it makes you start behaving in less than ideal ways in your relationship. You are not feeling good about your partner. You are annoyed, upset, irritated, and that impacts the way that you show up in a relationship. And your partner may or may not have any idea of what's going on. You know, they might not be connecting it to the thing that happened five years ago or the fact that they said they would fold the laundry and it's still sitting in the hamper on the bed. They might not connect the fact that you are now kind of being cold and quiet and stomping around the kitchen with either of those things. They just experience you as being kind of jerky and hostile and cold. And I'm telling you like it seems like a “of course they would know why I'm upset,” they really might not. And again, I have spent a long time as a marriage counselor, as a relationship coach, you would be amazed at what you may be experiencing that other people are not aware of. And they don't know why you're feeling the way you are, they don't know why you're acting the way that you are. But this is the reason why resentment is so incredibly toxic in a relationship and why it absolutely has to be addressed in a productive and direct way.

Because if it isn't, it comes out through your behaviors, through your energy, and through your actions. Like, even if you're not using words to say, “I am really angry, and here is why,” people still feel that anger, but they don'tlike connected to something that they can, you know, change or deal with. And so the narrative that starts happening in their mind is that, “This is just your personality. This is who you are. This is the kind of reaction I can expect from him because, you know, he's just an angry person.” And that is where people go over time, if resentment goes unresolved. That is how the partner of a resentful person begins to perceive them over time. It's not fair, it is also true. And we have to operate in reality.

So, anyway. So this is why we're here. And this is why I wanted to really, you know, not just shoot off a quick little answer in the bottom of a blog post or, you know, say something. It's not like a one sentence kind of thing that can be like, “Okay, here's what to do. Yes, there's resentment in the relationship. Let me let me tell you like one magic thing that's going to fix it.” None of this is like that, honestly. So I wanted to, like kind of talk you through what it is, where it comes from, why it's a big deal.

So anyway, so now that we've understood the origins of resentment and why it is so massively important to deal with, let's talk about what to do with it. So that you can actually move into a better place and let it go so that your relationship feels better for you. But also, so that you're not, you know, creating a little dark negative engine and your relationship that will over time really, really damage it because of unresolved resentmentabsolutely legitimate feelings of resentment, I would like to add. But you got to do something with it. We can't stay here is what I'm trying to say.

So, anyway. So for current resentment, things that are happening day to day that are, you know, from mildly, moderately to severely annoying. The path out of resentment is, first of all, to listen to those feelings and figure out what they are attached to—like, specifically. It can be very tempting to stuff our feelings, to dismiss them, to deny them, to talk yourself out of them, especially many times for women, but also many times for men, particularly very nice men. You know, you will have a flash of resentment or annoyance, and that very next thought is, “No, I want to make a big deal out of it. It's fine. She's had a long day, whatever.” And what that does is over time, it leads to this buildup of resentment. So step one, we need to listen to the feelings. Let it in, go ahead, make contact with your anger everyone. It's okay to be angry. Listen to it. It's not always okay to act on anger, but always okay to listen to your anger. And then pick up wisdom and guidance from your anger.

And then really think about, “What am i angry about? What does not feel good?” Many times this like current resentment is often attached to feeling like your relationship is out of balance in day to day stuff. So things like, you know, one person feeling like they're holding the bag with regards to parenting, housework, work-life balance stuff. You know, if a relationship is non-egalitarian, meaning that both partners aren't on the same page about what needs to happen and who's doing what. Often what happens is that one person who often does less will feel like everything is just fine. They're just doing what they're doing. And the person who feels like they are doing more will over time become increasingly stressed, and anxious, and resentful.

You know, say one of you has a super stressful job and you are working your butt off nine to five or longer these days if you're working from home, and then as soon as you're off the clock, you get handed a toddler. And your partner's like, “Good luck with that. I am going to go play video games for the balance of the evening.” Like, you know, that can be the reality in a lot of families. And hey, you know, a stay-at-home parent, especially now without the respite of child care and anything else, is also going to be struggling. But unless you guys are really talking about it, and creating agreements around what feels fair for both of you, it is almost inevitable that one of you is going to start feeling resentful over time. Or kinds of other things like, you know, you figure out how to get the groceries home, you make the dinner, and then you're standing there washing the dishes while everyone else is going off and watching a movie. And you're like, “Damn it. I feel resentful right now.” I mean, like, you know, it's legitimate.

Other engines of resentment, a lot can actually happen around sexuality. When one partner perceives the other as being, you know, not interested in sex or rejecting even. Especially if they feel like they can't ask for it or have it be okay that they would like to be intimate with you, that can lead to feelings of resentment over time. Not being in alignment around goals or priorities. You know, what I've actually seen a lot of is one person in a relationship starting to feel really resentful when they don't feel like they have a lot of time with their partner. And then they see their partner going off and having like, you know, girls’ weekends. Or like spending a lot of time with their friends on the phone, or whatever, FaceTime these days. That can lead to feelings of resentment, too.

And, you know, it really always when you unpack resentment, they're always very, like much more poignant feelings underneath. Like people feel, their feelings are hurt, or they feel uncared for, or not important. I mean, so like, there's a lot of soft stuff. But on the surface level, it's like this, “Dammit. I'm annoyed right now,” feeling. And we've talked about a lot of hate just, you know, garden variety super ultra normal couples stuff. And it is normal. It is so common, but it also needs to be fixed. Because if it is not fixed, again, it can turn into a really yucky stuff in a relationship especially over time.

And so, the goal with this kind of circumstantial current resentment is to figure out what it is that is making me feel resentful. And what would I like this to look like instead if this was feeling more balanced for me? What would be happening? What objectively needs to be done day to day in order to keep the show on the road and keep our household going? And then, how can we divide that up equitably? And it's really a matter of sitting down and saying, “I am not enjoying the way that we're doing this right now. Here's what I would like to do differently. What do you think about that?”

And often, it can be hard because the person who is the ‘causer’ of the resentment, so to speak, is oftentimes absolutely not aware. That, you know, and I don't want to get all like ‘gendery’ on it because this certainly happens in, you know, the other ways. I mean, male partners can absolutely feel resentful as female partners. This also happens in same sex relationships. And it is also not uncommon for men and women to be socialized differently in terms of their roles in the family. You know, little boys who have loving and incredibly competent mothers who have perhaps had a vocation out of staying at home and being moms have, you know, many times had a lot of stuff done for them. And they arrive in adulthood having zero idea of what it actually takes. It is not really magic elves that wash the socks and match them and put them back in the drawer. It is oftentimes the efforts of a woman who loves them very much and wants to take care of them. And that stops working when they are now in a relationship with a partner who has other ideas about equality and what that looks like. And wants them to match their own damn socks because she has enough other stuff to do.

So it's having those kinds of conversations, getting on the same page about who does what, and also having honest conversations that, you know, perhaps the person who is—I've also seen this happen—you know, seething with resentment about all these things that are not being done that should be done, feeling very overwhelmed and, you know, like they're left holding the bag, can also have a growth moment where they can come to realize that maybe some of the things that they learned through their own childhood socialization about things that should be done and that are important, are actually not important or meaningful to their partner. And as this couple comes to create their own family, they need to, you know, come to some agreements around, “Maybe we can let some of this stuff go too. You know, maybe we can put the clean socks in the drawer without them being matched. You can just put the socks in the drawer. Nobody has to patch the socks. That is okay too. That is absolutely okay.”

When to Consider Denver Marriage Counseling, Online Couples Therapy or Relationship Coaching

But so it's like this exploration of figuring out, figuring it out together and coming to agreements, and then following through with those agreements. It is absolutely possible to have these kinds of conversations by yourself at the kitchen table. And I will also tell you that an indication that you might need to take this in front of a marriage counselor or relationship coach is when you try to sit down and have a conversation about, “You know, I’m not feeling real good about this,” and it leads to a lot of defensiveness, and denial, and minimization. So it feels difficult to have that conversation in the first place. Or if it turns into big conflicts around who's right, and who's wrong, and what should actually be done, and it's very difficult to get on the same page—that would be another reason.

And then lastly, another reason why it can be important to come and get a third party involved is if you guys do make agreements and everybody's like, “Yep, we're gonna do that,” and then there is not the follow-through. There could be a need for, you know, either an accountability partner, or someone to help you take this a little bit deeper to figure out what's really going on. Because many times when there isn't the follow-through, it's either a lack of skills or the presence of other ideas, your feelings—conscious or subconscious—that are not being discussed. So we need to get those out into the open so that everybody can do what they're supposed to do.

Anyway, so those are indications that you might need help. And also, please take it seriously. I know that the things that we're talking about right now are absolutely garden variety. They are things that every couple deals with, and they seem like small things. You know, who matches the socks, whether or not the socks should be matched, whose job that is—it seems so trivial. And if you don't create agreements about how we operate, and if it doesn't feel relatively balanced and equitable, and resentment continues to fester, resentment will grow, and over time it will grow into hostility and mistrust, and it will damage a relationship. It will take down a marriage for the reasons that I described at the beginning of this podcast because it turns into a malignant force that erodes the fabric of a relationship.

So, I'm probably sounding incredibly dramatic right now, but I really want you to hear this so that you avoid the fate of so many couples that I have worked with who, you know, when you go back and talk to them about like, “When did you start feeling this way?” “You know, like four years ago.” When they're now, you know, sitting on my couch or my marriage counseling office, literally on the brink of divorce and like, “When did this start?” And, you know, oftentimes it goes back to feeling persistently resentful about things that, you know, “I tried to talk about how I was feeling and nothing changed. And, you know, we could just never get on the same page.” And then what happens, again, is that when people feel resentful, they start behaving differently in a relationship. That behavior creates a negative reaction in their partner, and then it just turns into this snowball, where people are now behaving badly with each other and creating stories about highly unflattering stories about who each other are, and that it's not possible to change. Anyway, it can get really bad—so take it seriously.

Try to talk about it and make changes, and if it feels like that's harder than it should be, just go ahead and get some help. Particularly, if you catch it early, you could literally have four conversations with a marriage counselor, and it will be over and done. Seriously, like my husband and I, I remember when we went to marriage counseling—oh my God, what year is it, like 20 years ago now. It was exactly the stuff that was making us both feel so bad. And we, I think, met with a marriage counselor six times, eight times? I don't know, but we walked away with like a plan. “This is what I do. I clean out the refrigerator, you change the litter box.” We have lived by that plan for the last 20 years, and it has been pretty good ever since. So anyway, get some help if you need it.

Now, let's also talk about old resentments because these are different, as you may imagine, from how to handle the current resentments. Old resentments are resolved through a different process. As I mentioned at the beginning, if you are feeling resentful about something big that happened in the past, it means that you did not heal after that experience. And again, this is really common for many reasons. I think the biggest one is that people actually do not know how to heal after a big wounding event, and they do the best they can, they do what they know how to do, and many times it is just not enough. Because it doesn't incorporate the ingredients of healing that people actually need.

So, for example, you know, if there was a betrayal or an emotional affair, or maybe even a capital ‘A’ affair, right? Or another thing that happened that can really create the same kind of emotional trauma is experiencing your partner as dropping the ball in a major way. Like, so for example, say your partner went through a really serious major depressive episode where they were not functioning for a while, and they maybe didn't treat you well or left you, you know, kind of on your own to take care of everybody and do everything because they were so unwell. Or maybe they had, you know, substance use disorder. You can see this kind of thing if somebody had struggled with addiction in the past and is now better.

What are some other things? You know, I think I've seen this come up in couples like around pregnancy, and childbirth, and baby stuff sometimes. Like, you know, I've talked with couples where the female partner had a very difficult pregnancy, and maybe even was hospitalized, or something happened, and the birth was very traumatic. Or even like in the postpartum kind of months, if the other partner, you know, often the man, does not really recognize the level of trauma, or fear, or need that their wife has during that experience, and they're, you know, kind of not adjusting to the role of father in the same way because they don't have to. You know, when you are pregnant or when you're a postpartum mom, you're sort of chained by biology to the experience. And where a male partner can say, “Hey, I was thinking I was gonna go golfing with Jack on Saturday”—the way that he has done for the last five years, and it hasn't been a big deal. But like, you know, if they're partners, you know, had a baby three weeks ago, and it's healing from a C section, and they're like, “What do you mean you're going golfing with Jack?” That doesn't articulate that in the same way.

I mean, these are, again, small, small moments—they seemed small—they don't seem like they would be as fraught with meaning as they really are. But, if someone is going through something really, really hard, and the other person feels emotionally unavailable or not fully understanding of what their partner is going through, it can create a terrible rupture. Even the other way, you know, like I mentioned, the kind of rupture that could happen if someone goes through a really serious major depressive episode that leaves them not functioning that well for a while. You know, the partner who isn't depressed can certainly feel abandoned because it feels like their partner's just withdrawn and dropped out, and that can be an issue, but it can go the other way too. You know, I've also seen partners who went through a very serious major depressive episode, or they had an anxiety flare-up. Grief can be another one. Like, say, if they lost their mom or their sister, they had some really serious loss, that their partner didn't understand the magnitude of, which, again, is understandable.

I mean, these things are hard to talk about. It can be difficult to articulate the level of your devastation when you're going through it and so many reasons why this can happen, but the end result is that one person feels abandoned, betrayed, uncared for in their moment of deepest need. And even after the crisis has passed, and maybe they're feeling better, or their relationship has become more functional again, or, you know, in the instance that one partner was engaging in a relationship-disrupting behavior—like an addiction or an affair. Even after that has passed, and people are now in a place where they're doing what they should be doing again, and everybody's okay, the legacy of the wound will live on in a big way, and that's very, very common. So, that's why it happens.

So in order to go back and get that emotional resolution, and to be able to release the resentment, you really do have to go back into the past, which people do not like to hear that. They’re like, “It's different. We've moved on. That was a long time ago.” I'm just telling you that that is not how this works. You do have to go back into the past and process what happened together in a productive way. There is quite a process that happens with this. I have addressed it at length in another podcast, I think, which one is it? Well, I've actually done a couple, one is like affair recovery. I talked about the process. And I think I did another specific to how to restore trust in a relationship that really digs into like step-by-step, here's what needs to happen. And so if you're interested to learn more about the process, I would invite you to go and check out either of those.

But, you know, speaking generally what needs to happen is a series of conversations that often need to be facilitated by a marriage counselor in order to help you guys like stay in the ring with the painful parts. Because there's a natural tendency to get defensive, or dismissive, or like, “That was a long time ago,” and every time people do that, it stops it—it stops the healing. And so people really need a lot of support to like stay in that place with each other, and we need to have lots of conversations, oftentimes, over a period of weeks, if not months. If the wound was huge, like in the case of an affair, it might be longer than months—it might be years.

And just so settle in, wrap your head around the fact that this is a process, and we need to really go back into what happened—how it felt, why it hurt, what the legacy was—and having the person who was hurt really be able to talk about this in a very real way, often, experience the pain and the anger and the sadness all over again. And have the person who perpetrated the hurt, really understand on a deep level, and let it in emotionally, and allow themselves to have all of the expected feelings as a result of that. And oftentimes, you know, even before that part happens, people need a lot of coaching and help in learning how to be emotionally responsive to someone in distress and how to really bump up that empathy and learn how to be validating and kind of learn how to interact with their partner in a way that will allow for healing, which in itself can be very difficult and take weeks or months to even create the foundation to set this stage for those difficult conversations to happen. Like there's pre-work.

And of course, so this is definitely the kind of thing that you need to get help with this—what will very predictably happen with couples who try to go back and address the old really deep, painful things is that the person who was hurt will invariably start expressing a lot of pain and anger. And the other person will get really defensive, and it feels intolerable, and they will shut it down, and defend, and minimize, and so you just go right back into the stuck place where resentment lives on because you haven't gotten that emotional resolution. And it just will be there forever basically until you do. So, do not mess around with this. Take it to a marriage counselor, particularly one who really understands an evidence-based form of marriage counseling called Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy.

This is the only one that I am aware of that very specifically has a model and a process to help couples figure out how to have that empathy, validation, emotional responsiveness and then walks them through a process of readdressing unfinished emotional business for the purpose of having healing experiences with each other, that allows them to really feel that it is complete, they have healed, they have reattached, all is forgiven. And then they can move on really without resentment—and it is an experiential process to do. It is not a cognitive like thought shifting sort of thing, although that can certainly be part of it, but it's really very experiential. And at the end of this process, you will actually feel differently. It is not something that you'll have to make happen; it is something that happens as a result of the successful work. So, again, and it requires the facilitation of an expert in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy.

And there's the path to healing, and it's possible, and I've seen lots of couples do it. And it's absolutely gorgeous and glorious when it does because it often, you know, along the way people do a lot of learning and growing about themselves, and there is laughter; there are tears. And at the end of the day, the couples really genuinely often stronger than ever before, and it's a beautiful thing—and you deserve to have that experience. So I hope that you just take those ideas into consideration that it offers you some guidance about how to really resolve resentment if it's linked to old, old unfinished stuff.

Okay, so lots of information today. But I really hope that this discussion has helped you understand resentment differently—what it is, where it comes from, why it needs to be addressed, the different types of resentment, and the path to resolving both of them. If you have asked a question on this topic, I sincerely hope that this discussion has answered it. And of course, if not, let me know.

Like, if there's a follow-up question, you can reach out to our website growingself.com. Cruise over to the blog, leave your comments in the posts. I do read and answer every one of those eventually. And also, Instagram @drlisamariebobby and through Facebook at Dr. Lisa Bobby on Facebook. I will eagerly await your follow up questions and comments. And I'm going to try not to check the iTunes reviews too often to see if anyone has said anything else nice to say because I don't want to be that person. But otherwise, I will be back in touch with you soon with another episode of the podcast.

In the meantime, Duchess Says with the song Negative Thoughts to help you, you know, make contact with the anger because that is actually always the first step. All right, talk to you later, you guys.


When To Call It Quits In a Relationship

When To Call It Quits In a Relationship

When To Call It Quits In a Relationship

When To Call It Quits In a Relationship


As a Denver marriage counseling and online couples therapy “relationship expert” I often speak to people seeking relationship advice about matters of the heart. Knowing when keep trying, or when to call it quits in a relationship is always confusing. Even in a fundamentally strong relationship, when your relationship has been feeling hard it's absolutely normal to have doubts and wonder when to end a relationship. You might wonder whether you're compatible with your partner, or whether your relationship can be saved.

But if your relationship has been feeling frustrating, painful and unsatisfying for a long time — to the point where the relationship problems are starting to feel permanent fixtures — you might start asking yourself things like, “When is it time to break up?” Or, “When is it time to divorce?” Figuring out whether your relationship can improve or when it's time to call it quits in a relationship is often the first step in knowing what to do, one way or another.

On this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast we're taking a deep dive into the different situations that lead couples and individuals to wonder whether it's time to throw in the towel and get a divorce, or if not, how to begin the long road of repair. Skip to the bottom of this post to access the podcast player and comments section, or scroll through for a few more insights and tips that may resonate with you if you're trying to figure out how to know when it's time to break up. — LMB

“Is My Relationship Over?”

All couples, even the most happy, fundamentally healthy and compatible couples will always be confronted by things that challenge them to grow as people. Most of the time, these opportunities first emerge as “relationship conflict.” Deep down, these moments are simply an chance to reflect on who you are, whether or not your current relationship skill set is working for you, and how you can make positive changes that benefit you, your partner and your family.

But these opportunities do not look like inviting “growth moments” that are framed so clearly. No. What they usually look and feel like are ongoing, sometimes even nasty and hurtful conflict between you and your partner. 

Most people are not aware of their “relationship growth opportunities” as they start butting heads with their partner, and getting feedback about things that are being perceived as hurtful or unloving. Instead they feel angry, defensive, attacked, or hurt. (And often express that, passionately). It is not obvious or intuitive in these moments that the frustration, hurt and annoyance can be a doorway to growth.

In reality, most couples can't calm down enough and shift into a space of intentional understanding when they're feeling triggered and upset. Not on their own anyway. They just go round and round, until someone eventually withdraws. [Read more about the joys of “Emotional Flooding.”] But if a couple can get involved in meaningful growth work together, ideally, an evidence-based form of couples therapy conducted by a legitimate relationship expert, all of a sudden that constant conflict reveals a treasure of new awarenesses, unhelpful old patterns just begging to be released, the chance to heal old wounds, new experiences that help you understand each other on a whole new level, and motivation to learn new communication skills and emotional intelligence strategies that will empower you in every aspect of your life — including your most important relationship. 

There is so much opportunity. But couples only have this aspect of conflict revealed to them when they are in a safe space and being guided by a skillful and knowledgeable marriage counseling or couples therapy expert who knows what they are doing. (Sadly, most don't.)

But most relationships fail without ever having had the chance to do this kind of meaningful growth work together. They never get to learn and grow. They never get instruction and support around how to do things differently. Instead, couples fall into predictable, increasingly negative patterns of relationship conflict and then wind up making decisions about when to call it quits in a relationship because they haven't been able to make positive changes on their own. They don't see the path forward so they assume that the only solution to their relationship problems is the “final solution” of divorce or breaking up. And that's really too bad.

So if you are asking yourself questions like, “When is it time to break up?” or “When to call it quits on a relationship” because of ongoing unresolved relationship conflict, and feeling stuck in a “pro and con” list, or feeling anxious about whether to get divorced, try this instead: Ask yourself a different question. Ask, “Is meaningful growth and change possible for us?”

Also, remember that it’s absolutely normal and expected for couples in distressed relationships to be (any combination of) hostile, emotionally unavailable, withdrawn, blaming, avoidant, passive-aggressive, not following through with household obligations, not meeting expectations, and generally being hurtful and annoying. People in distressed relationships do all of these things because their relationships are distressed.

So then the question next question becomes not “Should I end my relationship based on what is happening right now?” but rather, “If we were both feeling loved and respected in this relationship, and learned how to communicate, manage expectations, work as a team, etc., how could our relationship be different?”

If you're like many people the immediate answer is, “NO! Not possible. I've told him 500 times how I feel and he always gets defensive and it never changes so we cannot grow. No.” That is often a reflexive answer based on the experiences you've had to-date, and often based on how your partner is functioning in the context of a distressed relationship. (i.e., Not their best selves!)

When I sit with my Denver therapy or online life coaching clients and really unpack this with them the true answer is more like,

“I don't really know yet whether or not growth is possible for us. We are angry with each other. I haven't been my best self either. We've never been in a situation where we worked with a relationship expert who used an evidence-based model to help us understand each other and ourselves, and who taught us new skills and strategies, and who held us accountable for making changes.”

If that is the case for you, too, the first step in getting clarity about whether you should call it quits is to find out for sure whether or not change is possible. Then you will be able to move forward with clarity and confidence, one way or the other.

When To Give Up On a Relationship

Of course, for some couples, growth and change is not possible. How do you know for sure if it's time to break up, or when it's time to divorce? Your answer lies in the action.

  • When you make a sincere effort to get you and your partner into a meaningful growth opportunity…. and they refuse to go.
  • Or, even if you meet with an effective, evidence-based online marriage counselor or Denver couples therapist together, your partner will not participate in a deep level. They might show up for the appointments but they may continue to blame you, engage in gaslighting, and deny any responsibility for the issues.
  • When the marriage counselor invites them to share their perceptions of the problem, your partner may give voice to a perspective grounded in an absolute lack of empathy for yours.
  • They may flatly reject any efforts of the couples therapist to help them unpack their feelings, or make links between what they learned in their families of origin, and how they are showing up in their relationship.
  • Furthermore, they may not be coachable, meaning that they are not open to learning new skills or trying to do things differently for the benefit of the relationship.
  • They may show you, through their behaviors, that they are more committed to continuing their own negative patterns than they are to staying married to you.

As frustrating as this is, it's also okay. Positive, even. Because then you know for sure that this relationship is over. There is no hope. Nothing can change. It may not be the answer you wanted, but it's an answer you can use to find solid ground and make a new plan for your life. You are free to go and find peace, love, and understanding elsewhere.

When To End a Relationship Vs. When To Grow?

Of course, when considering when to call it quits in a relationship there are additional complexities above and beyond the need to figure out whether or not growth is possible. For example, if you are married with a crush on someone else (or having an affair) it can cast a lot of doubt and confusion on your relationship. It would be to your benefit (and to the benefit of your spouse, honestly) for YOU to get involved in individual therapy or effective life coaching in order to get clarity about your next steps. Only if you're committed to your relationship will any change be possible, and if you have an emotional attachment to someone else, it makes it really hard to work on your relationship.

When You're Feeling Trapped In a Relationship

Another reality for many people is the experience of feeling trapped in a relationship due to practical circumstances, like co-parenting, financial inequities, or concerns about housing. If you want to leave your marriage but feel that you can't due to concerns about how you'll make it on your own, or if you have concerns for your children that lead you to stay, it's important that you enlist the support of a professional therapist, life coach, or career coach to help you set meaningful goals and make a sustainable plan to move forward. (Even if it's a long-term plan.)

When To Call It Quits In a Relationship… Or Not

Because all of these questions are often complicated and difficult to sort through, they’re worthy of exploration and discussion. If you’ve been twisting yourself into knots trying to figure out when to call it quits in a relationship, I hope you find some comfort in the knowledge that its extremely difficult to find a clear “stay or go” answer in the context of a messy, multifaceted situation. The answer to the question of whether to break up or stay together is often, honestly, “it depends.” 

Whether or not to end a relationship often depends on whether growth is possible (or not), for your partner. But it may also depend on whether or not growth is possible for you, too. It also often depends on what external or internal factors are creating barriers that make you feel forced to stay in an unhappy relationship. There may also be emotional factors at play that make you feel like you should stay in the relationship… even though in your heart of hearts you might not want to.

No matter what you ultimately decide, whether to end your relationship or whether to attempt a new chapter, the path forward is always first getting clarity about what is possible… and what is not. Only with that clarity can you have the confidence to take action — action that feels like it’s connected with your highest values and personal integrity — one way or the other. The process of getting this clarity can take weeks, months, sometimes even years. It may involve you and your partner working together to get this clarity. It may involve just you educating yourself, and giving yourself the time and space to do some individual growth work.

To help you get clarity on the variables that may impact your decision about whether to call it quits in a relationship, or whether to try to foster a relationship growth experience, I’ve devoted an entire episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast on the topic of how to figure out when to break up or stay together.

I’ll be addressing specific questions to help you figure out whether you should end your relationship, or keep trying like:

  • How can you tell whether growth is possible for your relationship, or whether it really needs to end?
  • Why do couples wind up breaking up prematurely, without knowing or not whether growth was actually possible?
  • What are specific indications that your partner, if given meaningful and effective opportunities to change, is able or willing to do so?
  • What are the signs that there is no hope for this relationship, and that is time to divorce or break up?
  • What are the sneaky, toxic relationship signs that can lead you to stay stuck in a relationship that is fundamentally not good for you, and unlikely to change?
  • What are the growth opportunities that YOU might need to engage in, in order to feel more clear and confident about your commitment to your current relationship…. Or more clear and confident that it’s time to end your relationship?
  • What if you want to break up or divorce, but are stuck because you feel guilty about it?
  • How do you handle leaving a relationship if your partner has a problem like a mental health issue, substance use disorder, or other issues?
  • What to do if you’re unhappy in your relationship and would like to divorce, but are facing practical realities such as co-parenting concerns or financial consequences if you separate?

All that, plus more insights, thought provoking questions, and actionable advice to support your path forward, whether it's time to reach for hope and growth… or time to call it quits.

All the best,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

PS: Resources discussed on this episode include a link to my online “How Healthy Is Your Relationship Quiz” as well as www.thehotline.org.


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When To Call It Quits In a Relationship

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credits: Brick Fields, “This Time Coming Soon”

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She's the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Real Help For Your Relationship

Lots of couples go through challenging times, but the ones who turn "rough-patches" into "growth moments" can come out the other side stronger and happier than ever before.


Working with an expert couples counselor can help you create understanding, empathy and open communication that felt impossible before.


Start your journey of growth together by scheduling a free consultation.

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What Are You Communicating Non-verbally?

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Long-Distance Relationship Breakup

Breaking up is never easy, Denver Therapist, Utah Couples Counselor, and Online Breakup Support Expert Kensington O. shares how to know when it's time to end things and if it is time, how to move on gracefully.

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Boundaries in Relationships

Happy, healthy relationships are built on healthy boundaries. If you struggle to establish boundaries, understand your boundaries, or even define your boundaries to others, this episode is for you!

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Love is Respect

Ft. Collins, Colorado Therapist and Marriage Counselor, Hunter Tolman, M.S., MFTC is discussing the fundamental support for every relationship – respect. A healthy relationship requires respect in order to thrive. Learn more about how you can begin implementing greater respect into your relationship here!

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How to Not Lose Yourself in a Relationship

Tennessee Therapist and Online Marriage Counselor, Parsa Shariati, MMFT shares how to have healthy communication around self-identities and codependency with your partner for a more fulfilling relationship.

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